For many high school students across America, April is the cruelest month. While their parents have just finished filing tax returns, students have to decide which college to enroll in. You probably have two, three or more excellent choices, and yet you feel you must choose wisely. At the very least, enrollment represents a long-term financial commitment. You may also feel like a school may shape your social and emotional well-being for the rest of your life.
Remember, no decision is permanent. Your choice of schools can and should have a long-term impact on your life, both good and bad. Nevertheless, if you feel you do not like the direction your life is going in, you can always change it.
To help make an educated decision, it’s important to remember a few key points.
Why did you apply to a school in the first place?
I once had a student apply to a California research university after visiting the campus and seeing a mariachi band. He went there and ended up loving it. Somehow, he knew from that mariachi band. You probably had your own reasons for applying to a school. Make sure you reflect on those reasons, either by writing them down or by talking about them with a trusted friend or parent.
Can you afford it?
Did you answer? Ask again. There’s no point in going to a school you and your family can barely afford, only to have you drop out because you cannot pay. Mom and Dad may offer to live on canned soup for the next four years, but would they really be happy to do that?
What kind of academic profile fits you best?
Many students apply to schools based on three tiers of academic competitiveness: schools with an elevated academic profile to yours, schools that match your academic achievements, and schools that you know you will get into. If you got into a school in the first category, or a “reach” school, then congratulations! It’s important to remember, though, that you may be entering an extremely competitive environment. That may be good or bad, depending on your personality. Similarly, a “safety” school may not be an academically stimulating environment, though you are likely to be one of the top performers there.