Questions for Choosing the Right College

Photo by Chrissie Huang

It’s that time of year for high school seniors — the time when the big decision has to be made about where to spend their next four years. After months and months of traveling, touring, applying and weighing options, it’s time to narrow down the list and find the best fit. But how do you know which one is the best fit?

There are so many factors that go into choosing the right college, and with a decision this important you don’t want to ignore any of them. Valley is here to help with a checklist of the things you need to consider to make the next four years the best four years.

Size, Money, Major, Location

These are the Big Four everyone considers right away during their college search. Is a big state school for you? Or would a small private school be a better fit? Consider whether you would be overwhelmed by a class of 10,000, or if you would welcome the chance to meet so many new people.

What do the schools cost? Have you gotten any scholarships? Are you getting bang for your buck? Even if the college seems like a dream school, the last thing you want to do is come out of four years loaded with student debt.

Is the college good for your intended major? Are there a lot of internship or research opportunities? What classes are you able to take? Do some research and find out if the programs you’re interested are stronger at one school over another. If you’re undecided, look into the schools that are conducive to this and will let you take a lot of gen ed courses to discover where your interests lie.

Where is the school? Do you want to be close to home, or do you want to get away? Think really closely about this one. A lot of people choose schools that are extremely far thinking they won’t be homesick, but sometimes it’s inevitable. If you’re on the fence about staying close to home or not, consider a school that is a few-hours car ride away. You can go home for the weekend, but you’ll still have your independence from your home town.

“Cost, school size, and having a good program for my major were important,” says freshman Bridget Flynn, who looked really closely at these factors and eventually decided Penn State was the school for her.

Life at School

Besides all of the logistics, you need to be able to see yourself living at this new place. It will become your second home, and you will have to adjust to the new lifestyle that will inevitably be different from what you’re used to in your hometown.

Grace Miller, a freshman, says that one of the biggest parts that played into choosing Penn State was “what the current students were like and if they seemed happy.”

If you know people who go to the schools you are applying to, ask them for the real details that you wouldn’t find on any website or brochure. Are the students happy with their choice? What is the night life like? If you aren’t into going out on the weekends, what are other things students do for fun on Fridays and Saturdays?

Get all the information you can about the social aspect of college. Yes, we’re paying for an education, but life isn’t all about homework and classes. Get the inside scoop from your connection at the school, or find someone online and ask about where they found their friends, what clubs the school has, and where the best places are to eat.

Ask them if people go home often on the weekends and what the school spirit is like. Look into sporting events if you’re a fan, or what performances the school has if you enjoy music, theater shows, etc. Do most upperclassmen live on or off campus? Are the dorm rooms nice? Are there places to hike, or run, or good gyms to work out in? Are there fun campus traditions?

There are so many things to ask yourself and to look into in addition to the Big Four. But the long story short is, you can never ask too many questions during your college search. Having the most information will help you make the best decision. But most importantly, don’t stress. College is what you make it. Good luck, and welcome to what will hopefully be some of the most exciting, fun, stressful, interesting, crazy years of your life!