April 13, 2010

Making the May 1st College Choice Deadline

As many students are relaxing, more than satisfied with their college selection and the prospects of a transformational freshman year, some still reel. It is always good to utilize the allotted time in order to make the most informed and positive college choice, but unless new information is coming to light or a visit is happening in the coming week or two, this decision should be very close to done.

How each individual goes about this final college choice varies. But there are certainly some common questions (or answers, for that matter) that everyone needs to take into consideration. To go over the thought process, I think it is important to take finances out of this for now. Ultimately, finances play a significant (if not the most significant) part in the majority of people's college choice scenarios. And because everyone has a very personal situation and some people want to take loans while others do not, or will live at home while others will not, covering the gamut of potential financial questions would be enough to fill many books, let alone just this one article. So, for the sake of simplification, let's break the college choice process down into the major factors for those who are still vacillating with two weeks to go. Remember, the best thing to do in every situation in life is to eliminate the choices which are not suitable. Sometimes, after we do this, it is revealed to us that only one or, perhaps, two choices are even appropriate. Eliminating these superfluous college choices is critical at this juncture.

1. Site unseen: I warn students to not take this with a grain of salt. If you have not seen or been near the college campus that you are contemplating attending, be very careful. Every campus and surrounding community has a personality and feel which can be unique. If you have not been motivated enough to visit a school by now, I have a feeling that it does not belong on your final list.

2. Program breadth: Unless you are sure of your major and set on a career path, choosing a school based on its extremely specific curriculum or specialization in one program is not always the best option. Make sure that your college choice gives you the flexibility and wiggle-room to explore and challenge yourself with new ideas and fields that you might not have been familiar with otherwise.

3. Extracurricular potential: on any campus in the country one can find a place to play ultimate frisbee or beer pong. However, if you're into activities which are location specific or require certain facilities, please make sure that these exist on or near the campus, before you make the final college choice.

4. The difference between attending university near home or away from home exists, but it's not necessarily as significant as one may think. If home is close enough to tempt a return visit every weekend, I recommend not allowing yourself that visit for the first two months of college. A student, if he/she is not living at home while commuting to college, is paying for a college experience through on- or off-campus housing. This means that part of your education comes when you're outside of the classroom. You should definitely limit your visits home. Consider this when making the college choice. If it's a difference of a four hour versus five hour drive from your house or a drive versus a plane flight, sometimes the more distant option can help a young person achieve that self-sufficiency that all parents work hard to instill.

5. Friends: don't always go where your friends are going. The college choice is filled with- and all about- change. You will stay friends with those you are close with, no matter where you go. So make some new ones.

6. Parents: The last thing that any parent wants is to choose the university for their kid. This can create some major resentment when school gets unpleasant, which is bound to happen at certain times. But regardless of that, the college choice is really up to the student. It is my personal opinion that this is the one time when parents really need to stay out of it. Set the guidelines and the budget and if the student can make "A" university work when you were pushing "B" university, but "A" university fulfills the terms that were agreed upon from the onset ... back off!

7. Remember: you will be happy if you're committed to learning and change. This is ultimately what college is about and, more importantly, the traditional ages from 18-24. So while a good college choice has a great impact on your future and who you become, the change in who you are is coming, whether you choose college "A" or college "B". Just make sure that your college choice is done with lots of thought and as full of an understanding of the options as you are able to gather.
If you have any questions or are a bit stuck, you can always reach me through the website, www.findabetteru.com. Enjoy the process and thanks for reading!