By: Contributor On: March 24, 2016 In: Applying to College, Choosing a College Comments: 0

Deciding where to go to college can be an exciting yet nerve-wracking task — after all, it’s an enormous decision!

Most US colleges and universities have a May 1 decision deadline, meaning you need to accept their offer of admission by that date if you plan to attend.

Still unsure where to go to college? Ask yourself the following five questions:

1. Which school’s academic offerings are best suited to my interests?

The schools that offer the best academic programs for you aren’t necessarily those that top the rankings list.

Instead consider what fields you are interested in and ensure that the colleges you’ve been accepted to and are considering offer corresponding majors and/or minors. For example, if you have a passion for environmental studies you’ll want to make sure whatever school your choose has this course of study.

You’ll also want to make sure that the school you select has classes that fit your learning style. If you want to attend large lectures with prominent professors, a public state university is probably your ideal. But if you favor small, intimate class settings where student participation is highly encouraged, you’ll likely want to lean towards a private college.

And don’t forget to explore the schools’ other academic options. Do they have an honors program? Do they encourage dual-majors? Make sure your academic preferences align with your college’s in order to get the most out of your studies.

2. How will I pay for college?

Cost can be an extremely important factor in deciding where to go to college, especially considering that the majority of students these days are existing college with upwards of $30,000 in student debt.

Once you complete your FAFSA form and receive you aid package from each college where you’ve gained acceptance, do the math. Make sure you include any outside scholarships and determine how much you’re family is willing to contribute as well as how much you’re comfortable taking out in the form of student loans.

Remember, if you are unsatisfied with your aid package, you can always contact the admissions office and see if there is anything else available, such as work study or possible grants.

3. How important are extracurricular activities to me?

Extracurricular activities are a great way to get involved in student life and can be important if you are interested in playing certain sports or participating in organizations like a school orchestra, debate team, newspaper, etc.

Take a look at the extracurriculars offered at the colleges you’ve been accepted to — do you see what your looking for? If you don’t, is it possible for you to start a club yourself?

4. Can I visit the school one more time?

If you are still uncertain about where to go to college, one of the most important things you can do is plan a campus visit to the schools you are considering. This will allow you to see the school, meet students and professors, and ask crucial questions that can help you make up your mind.

If you’ve already been to campus once, see if you can attend an Acceptance Students Day event or arrange an overnight visit. These types of visits will provide you with great insight into the student experience and also allow you the chance to see exactly what your fellow students will be like. Do you see yourself fitting in?

5. What if I don’t have the time or money to visit?

If you can’t visit the school, don’t panic. Many admissions offices will be happy to connect you with a current student via email so that you can ask questions about his or her experience at the school. Simply finding out more information (and gaining perspective from a real, current student) can be a big help when you’re deciding where to go to college.

A lot of colleges also offer great virtual tours now too. So, if you can’t see the college in person, be sure to check it out virtually from the comfort of your own home. This is an especially helpful feature for international students.

What To Do if You Haven’t Heard From a College

If it is past the deadline the college provided for decision letters and you think that you should have heard by now, call or email the admissions office and ask about the status of your application. Also make sure you check your email inbox and Spam folder, just in case you missed something important.

What To Do if You Are on the Waitlist

If you want to remain on the waitlist, inform the school of this and find out what your chances are of getting in. Many schools can tell you what spot you hold on the waitlist.

Whatever you do, don’t harass the admissions office – calling daily will not increase your chances of getting in. However do update them on your latest achievements, like great final grades and recent awards.

The Final Word: Do What’s Best for You!

The important thing to realize when deciding where to go to college is that you are choosing a school to suit your needs and interests.

Sit down and make a list of what’s important to you. Figuring out what you want from a school is the first step in making sure you’ve made the right choice in deciding where to go to college.

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