Choosing where to attend college can be a huge decision. It’s important to pick a school that will be a good fit for you both in and out of the classroom, as well as one that will be a good financial investment. As you consider your options, here are a few tips to guide your decision making.
1. Understand your values and priorities
Think about who you are and what you value. What is most important to you when you imagine your time in college? What are your biggest priorities for that time of your life? Given that you probably don’t know much about college, or that what you think you know may change, this can be hard!
We encourage you to reflect on what you do know and the experiences you have had thus far in life. How was high school for you? What did you love about your experience and what would you change? What things do you value or prioritize in your life already - studying? Time with family? Friends? Sports? Travel? Look for schools that place a high emphasis on the things you value, and/or that offer lots of opportunities for growth in those areas.
2. Get to know the colleges
Do your best to get to know the colleges or universities you are considering, in full. What does each school value or prioritize? What are its strengths and weaknesses? Consider the unique challenges of attending that university or college. For example, a big university may have lots of opportunities, but could feel overwhelming. A small college may be easier to navigate, but may have fewer options for growth. Think about which scenario you prefer.
3. Make a pro/con list
Sit down and write a pro/con list for each school you are considering. Be brutally honest about what you know for sure and what you are assuming about each school, both good and bad. Think about that school and think about yourself. Are the things you currently prioritize the same as the things you want to prioritize?
Now go through the pro/con list and think about where you got each piece of information. Take note of the biases or the reliability of each source. Did you get the information from a friend or the school’s admission site? Then, assign various weights to each pro or con based on your personal values.
Mapping out all that you know will help you to see more clearly what information you have and what information you might still need to make an informed decision.
4. Consider the money
There’s no two ways around it – higher education can be a huge expense. Given that this is most likely your largest investment ever, try to go into the decision process knowing how large of a role the cost of each school will play in your decision. Even if you are still waiting to receive financial aid and/or scholarship notifications, you can do research ahead of time on what a school will cost for you by using each school’s Net Price Calculator. All schools that receive federal funding are required to have these on their websites.
5. Keep in mind your influences
As you go through this process, keep in mind that there are other forces at play in your decision, such as opinions of your loved ones, rumors you’ve heard, or social media impressions. Do your best to give appropriate weight to each of these. For example, your family’s opinion of your decision (especially if they are helping to pay for your education) should probably play a larger part in your decision than the opinions of your followers on social media.
In the end, keep in mind that colleges are not soul mates – you can be happy anywhere you go if that is the attitude with which you go into your experience there. Each school will give you a different experience and different opportunities. All of us at UF wish you well in your college search and decision process!