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6 Steps to Choosing a College with No Regrets


You’re nearly there. Only one semester is left between you and choosing your own classes, meeting new people, and independence! But first you have to choose a college, and it can feel like an impossible decision.

There’s no crystal ball to tell you what to do, but if you’re stressing over this, use the tips below to help you choose a college that is best for you.

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1. Visit

Colleges can make the prettiest websites or mail you the coolest t-shirts, but they can’t show you what it’s like to actually live on campus without an in-person tour. Going to a college’s physical campus will let you see if you like the geography, the facilities, and the general vibe of the students. Watch out for warning signs—do all of the people you pass by seem to be incredibly stressed? Do you feel safe? Can you imagine yourself making friends with the people you see? If you can answer these questions favorably, that’s a great sign!

2. Visit (again)

Most schools have admitted student programs that offer incoming students a chance to see the campus in a different light—usually with special treatment, too! These programs will allow you to meet your potential classmates, see new parts of campus, and sometimes even stay in the dorms and eat in the dining halls. This is a great option, especially if your first visit of the school didn’t go as planned due to rain or other circumstances.

3. Look into the school’s extra-curricular offerings

Most college students don’t know exactly what activities they want to try when they first arrive. However, if you know that certain communities are very important to you, then it’s a good idea to look into each school’s offerings and relative strengths. For example, if you are interested in Greek life, cultural groups, musical groups, or other organizations, doing a quick online search will likely give you a pretty good picture of the presence of these groups on campus.

4. Consider the size and location of the school

If you love hiking and being outdoors, a school in the middle of New York City might not be for you, just in the same way that going to a really large school might not be for you if you like a more intimate learning environment with smaller class sizes. Thinking about what type of environment makes you happiest and most productive is crucial in picking a college as you will live in that environment for at least a few years. Weather can play a factor, too. For example, schools in New England and schools in California certainly have different environments that can influence your happiness and productivity.

5. Talk to current students

Odds are high that you already know someone that goes to one of your top school choices, or you have a friend that might know someone. Use this to your advantage to ask real questions about what it is like to be a student there—good or bad. Talking to someone outside of a campus tour can be really beneficial, and you can have a more honest conversation about student life. Making these connections will help you once you arrive to campus as well, as you will feel more comfortable knowing there is someone there to answer your questions when you have them.  

6. Think about the academic programs

You’re going to college in the first place to further your education, so thinking about a school’s academic programs is really important when narrowing down your choices. If you think that you want to go into a certain profession, such as business or nursing, exploring the course offerings in this program will give you a sense of its overall strength. Most colleges will allow visiting students to sit in on a class, so this can be a good way to check out class size and academic culture. Many college students, though, change their majors, so keep your options open and make sure that your top school choices offer a variety of courses that interest you—no one can never predict what subjects they might fall in love with while in college!

Making such a weighty decision about your future can be difficult, but taking the right steps can help you make an informed choice about the next years of your life. Use these tips to best explore your options and determine what school will help you flourish during your time there.

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Under Student Life