How to Pick a College When You Can’t Decide Between Schools

How to Choose a College When You’re Torn Between Multiple Schools

Making a decision about which college to go to is a difficult, but such an important, one. There are many of schools out there to choose from, and where you end up going could define what your future looks like. No pressure, right?

First off, it’s important to figure out what you’re looking for. Would you rather go somewhere small with a tight-knit community? A liberal arts college? A technical college? A big university? Are you looking for a huge school with tons of options for majors and extracurriculars? A state school? A private school? A big city? A small college town? Start to brainstorm and do your research into what’s out there and what works best for you.

Step 1: Make a List of College Options

Take all the schools you have found that have peaked your interest and make a list. It may be easiest to make it on a Word or Google Doc and start to add links for their websites, and clubs that you’re interested in joining. Start researching them more.

• Do they have the major you want?

• Are you like me and need a school with sports teams to cheer on?

• Do they have extracurricular activities?

• What about the options for scholarships, grants, or work study opportunities?

Start making the list of schools you’re interested in and pick your top two or three schools to highlight.

Step 2: Plan a Road Trip for College Visits

Plan a trip to see the schools you have on your list. Even if you can’t hit all of them, definitely try to hit your top two schools. The visit I took to Ann Arbor is what sold me on going to Michigan, and I am so glad I made that decision. Maybe you’ll know the second you walk on campus. Maybe the tour you take will give you a little bit of a better look into what it would be like to be a student there. Maybe visiting the school will help you realize you don’t want to live there for the next four years.

The goal of these visits is to learn as much as possible. Check out the school’s website to see if they offer tours or overnight programs you can participate in. Or if you have a friend or family member attending that school, see if they can take you around.


Step 3: Start College Applications

Obviously one of the biggest components of going to your dream school is being accepted to your dream school. Start the application process, which can take a bit of time and be quite grueling. Talk to some alumni or current students to figure out the best tips on filling out and submitting the application. Get someone to proofread your essays. Make sure you have great references. The wait for a decision is most definitely the worst part of this entire process!

Step 4: Make a Pros and Cons List

The very classic way to make a big decision – make a pros and cons list. This seems simple and sort of silly, but I really do think this was what helped me make my decision in the end. Make a list for each school. Really spend some time thinking about it. The list doesn’t have to be made in one sitting. Then start looking at which pros are most important. Which cons are most important?

Things to consider:

• Affordability

• The campus environment

• Size of the campus (the Goldilocks principle – too big, too small, or just right)

• Location (how easy can you get home or to family/support)

• Major choices

• Clubs, groups, Greek life or sports you want to participate in?

• Any unique offerings of the school (coop programs, disability services you may need, internship opportunities, etc.)

Step 5: Make Your College Decision!

The time has come. You’ve been accepted and fallen in love with the campus. Where do you see yourself? Where do you think you’ll excel, learn, and grow? It’s a huge decision, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Transferring is possible and so many people do it. Talk to an academic advisor if you’re thinking of transferring to a different school after the first semester or two. They can help you do that with as much ease as possible.

If you love the school you pick, it’ll be with you for the rest of your life. Go in with an open mind and space to grow. Become a new person – well-rounded, mature, educated, and inspired. No matter what, don’t lose sight of your passions and what you want to accomplish in your new school.

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