It's almost here! That wondrous time when you start getting fat letters and congratulatory emails from colleges, and you finally get to pick where you want to go to college. It's exciting, it's exhilarating, it's awesome--and it needs to be something you take seriously, lest you end up selecting a college for all the wrong reasons.
If you're trying to choose between schools, make sure you're not using these as your deciding factor for one college over another.
It has a better party life.
The importance of social aspect of a college or university cannot be overstated. It is essential for you to have access to plentiful activities and recreations, and it is critical for the student body to be involved and for you to be able to make friends. However, if your deciding factor for why you choose one school over another is that they're ranked as one of the top party schools in the nation, you may want to rethink your reasons--and your priorities. Remember, you're going to college to learn, expand your horizons, and create lifelong friends--you're not going to see how quickly you can master a keg stand. Focus on what a school can offer you when it comes to academics and extracurriculars, and let the party life (whether it exists or not) be a nice side benefit that you enjoy but don't make essential.
Your favorite author/journalist/scientist/idol teaches there.
Don't get me wrong--having a personal idol or hero be on the same campus as you can be pretty darn awesome. Having the opportunity to take a class taught by this hero or idol can also be pretty cool, as can be the potential of working with them on a project. However, do not make this the deciding or only factor you consider. A school needs to be the perfect fit for you--in academics, extracurriculars, opportunities, finances, and living arrangements--and hinging a huge decision on the presence of someone else isn't really very sound. Consider having your hero/idol there a nice side benefit, but one that you only consider after all of your other criteria have been met.
You really want to live in that city.
Location is important. However, it's not important enough for you to let other items--academics, extracurriculars, opportunities, and finances--be secondary. Just like with having your hero/idol right on campus, consider the city in which a school is located to be a nice side benefit, but not the deciding factor for your choice.
You want to be as far away from your parents as possible.
We get it. Part of the excitement of going off to college is getting to live your own life: no parent-enforced curfews, no parental rules, no parent-driven schedule. But if you're choosing to go to a school in California just because you want to get as far away from your East Coast parents as possible, you may want to stop and rethink your reasons. Starting your own life and heading off to college is a great thing, but it should be a time for happiness and excitement that you enjoy without having to run away from your parents.
It's the cheapest option.
Paying for college is a huge consideration, and it should factor heavily into your decision. Nonetheless, it should not be the only thing you decide. Remember, cost isn't everything (and sometimes you get what you pay for). Before signing on the dotted line just because it's the one with the most attractive price tag, make sure all of your other needs are met.
Image: "Choose" courtesy of Tony Webster