Photograph of three arrows pointing in different directions, represents choosing the right college.

Making your final college choice can be tough. Source: Flickr user derekbruff

You apply, you wait, and ultimately, you are accepted.

Ideally, you are accepted to multiple schools, which brings up the question, “what now?” How do you choose? What do I consider?

There isn’t an exact science to this and bear in mind that depending on your personal preferences, the deciding factors in choosing a college will vary.

Here are a few things you should not hesitate to consider as you make that all-important choice:

1. Do I see myself there for at least four years?

I generate this question to really ask, “Have you gone to visit the school(s) you are considering?”

It shocks me how many prospective students go through the process without ever visiting a school. Do yourself a favor and if you have not visited, make it a “to do” before you make your final choice.

Actually going to the campus will give you a great opportunity to really gauge the campus culture and determine if it feels “right”. Most, if not all, institutions have some form of accepted student program you can attend.

(You’ll thank me later. ☺)

2. Am I selling myself short at all?

By the time you are ready to make that final choice, you should have any and all  scholarship offers from the institutions you are considering as well as financial aid award letters. (If you don’t, be sure to make follow-up calls to find out when you can expect it)

Beyond that, you have nothing to lose by calling each school you are considering and asking their Admissions and/or Financial Aid team, in a very nice, professional manner, “do you have any more money for me?”

They may not be able to adjust your individual aid offer, but it can’t hurt to ask. And, in some cases, they may be willing to help you make ends meet.

If your financial circumstances have changed from the information you provided on the FAFSA (change of income, a parent was laid off, etc), then you should check out this article on how to communicate this information to the financial aid office.

3. Sticker price vs. net price

Every school has, what you call, a “sticker price”. This is the figure you can find on an institution’s webpage that tells you what the cost of attendance is before any financial aid at all.

Now, financial aid will offset that cost, so, what you pay out of pocket will ideally be much lower than that sticker price–this is called your “Net Price”.

In other words, when you are taking a look at finances, look at the colleges net price, not just at those schools that gave you the most aid or eliminating those that may not have given you as much in comparison.  It’s the net price that’s important.

You need to take the aid you are going to ultimately accept and subtract that from the sticker price. One school may offer less aid than another, but their sticker price may also be lower, which could mean that your net price is actually still less.

You should be making financial comparisons based on what your final out-of-pocket expense would be.

4. Is there anything else I still need to know?

No question is ever too “silly” or “not that important” when it comes to this decision.

Remember that it is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make. If you have questions do not hesitate to call the admissions office and ask them.

Remember that anyone in the admissions office can likely answer your questions, but you also have an admissions counselor assigned to you that you can reach out to directly. Their job is to answer any and all questions that you have about the institution, or at least refer you to someone who can answer them.

If you do not know who your admissions counselor is at a college, simply ask when you call the general admissions phone numberor when you send an email.

5. When you make that final decision, own it

There are so many factors that go into this decision and it is not taken lightly at all. When you are asked, “why did you pick that particular school”, you don’t want your answer to be, “because my (insert family member here) said I should” or something similar.

So, own your decision. The place you go to school doesn’t necessarily define you, but when chosen correctly, does become a part of you. So, make your choice.

As I stated earlier, there is no science to this, and in hindsight, it isn’t really an art, either. Perhaps it is a little bit of both. And, it can be a tough choice.

Just be sure to have as much information as you need to make your final choice. Then, celebrate! You’ll be a college student in the fall!

Happy college choosing!