Deciding Which College to Attend

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Spring is here and many students across the country are receiving admissions notifications. If you are fortunate enough to have some choice, it can also be a challenge if you are uncertain which college you should commit to enrolling in the fall.

Most colleges adhere to a May 1 reply deadline meaning you have to submit a deposit by then and commit to the college with your intention to enroll.

How to decide which college is best for you?  Most of us that work in the college admission world talk about fit. It is a term not to be underestimated. Going to college requires a considerable investment of time and energy, so it’s best to feel that the college you are committing to can meet your needs from a variety of perspectives.

That being said, there is no right or wrong way to figure out if a college is a good fit. It will often depend upon what you value most.

A good place to start is to ensure you visit the college before sending a deposit. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to really feel out a school remotely, so be sure to take advantage of visit days or admitted student receptions.

If you are thinking of attending a college far away, it can also help to see if there are any recent alumni from your high school attending. This could better inform you about the transition for someone from our region. While no two people will have the exact same experiences, the more information you have at your disposal before deciding on a college, the better.

Clearly for most families the net cost, can be a determining factor and if you have questions about your financial aid award,  please contact the financial aid office as soon as possible. The staff can help explain the components of the award (grants, loans, work study etc.) and answer other questions.

In addition to cost, be sure the college offers the academic programs you are most interested in. If you have been offered admission to a specific program, yet may be having second thoughts, ask if switching majors is possible later on in your studies and be sure the process works for you. If admitted as an undeclared/undecided student that too is fine, as most students don’t have a clear path yet determined and may need a year or two before deciding what to focus on.

Some other important questions to consider before committing include:

Does the college offer academic advising that feels right for me?

What is the relationship between faculty and students? If I’m a student that needs more personal attention,be sure that dynamic exists at the college before committing.

Does the college offer support services should I require them? These may include academic, tutoring, disability, mental health, etc. If you need help finding the offices on campus to investigate support services, ask the admissions office and they can point you in the right direction.

Does the college offer the clubs and activities I anticipate getting involved with and if not is it possible for me to start one?

How does the college support career development? Does the school offer assistance in obtaining internships and employment along with graduate school advisement? Where do students end up in terms of jobs, graduate schools, and other professional opportunities?

Regardless of what you value most in selecting a college, note that the decision should ultimately be decided by the student. He/she will be the one studying and socializing day in and day out, not the parent. Also, I firmly believe that for most students there are several colleges, if not more, that can meet their academic and personal needs.  Therefore, if you’ve done your homework in advance, applied to several colleges that could meet your needs, and if you have choices at this time, then consider yourself fortunate and know it’ll all work out fine.

Some students feel they could benefit from a gap year, meaning starting college a year later. This is a wise choice for students who may not be ready for a formal education right away. Often students that take the gap year are more focused and ready to engage with their studies once arriving on campus.

If you’ve been admitted to a college and are looking to defer your enrollment for the year, check in with the admissions office to better understand the steps required assuming deferrals are permitted. Some colleges have rules and restrictions for students during the gap year, e.g. enrolling full time elsewhere without permission.

While higher education isn’t for everyone, if you happen to be starting college next fall, take a moment and try to appreciate the journey you are about to begin. For many students, college is transformative and can help put you on a path facilitating personal and professional growth.

If you have questions feel free to send them my way to [email protected]

Maybe your question will be answered in a future article!

Mitchell LiptonContributor: Mitchell Lipton

College Corner presented by Mitchell Lipton, Mitchell Lipton serves as Dean of Admissions and Records and Registrar at Cooper Union. Mitchell actively presents at local and national conferences and consults on a number of educational endeavors. He holds an elected position with the College Board and serves on the Advisory Board of Private Colleges and Universities. Mitchell served as Vice President of the New York State Association for College Admissions Counseling, Steering Committee member for

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