Making a Decision About College
The process of choosing a college can range from a no-brainer to a total mystery. For some students, the decision comes easily.
For other students, the right path forward is a little more open-ended. If you're weighing your options and trying to narrow down the search, these self-directed questions should help you find some clarity.
Common Decision Points
Every student makes their college choice based on a unique set of values and goals. However, there are common factors that students consider when they're whittling down their school list.
Consider these points closely in your pros and cons list:
- Location: While some students prefer to stay close to home, others seek new surroundings in a different state. Deciding on your ideal location and surroundings will help you narrow down the pool.
- Major offerings: Have a particular major or career path in mind? Major offerings and education quality should be a major deal maker — or breaker — when it comes to choosing a college.
- Sports offerings: If you hope to join a school sports team, check out their athletic programs as well as the requirements and openings.
- Campus size: Determine whether you'd thrive in a big, bustling campus or prefer a small and familiar community.
- Class size: If you're used to a close-knit class with small sizes, consider whether a large school will benefit or limit you.
- Religious affiliation: If being part of a religious community is important to you, you may want to consider pursuing a faith-based university education.
- College reputation: *Don’t believe everything you hear.* We encourage students to conduct their own research and communicate with our college counselors, as well as college admission representatives, to see whether the college is a good fit for you.
10 Questions to Ask Yourself About College
Feedback from parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and college admissions staff can be very valuable. Ultimately, however, the decision will come down to you. It's your future!
As you prepare to enter a new season of independence, this is your time to dig into your options and discover your passions. We recommend sitting down in a distraction-free space with a pen and a journal to work through these questions:
1. What Is Most Important to Me?
Start by determining and ranking your priorities. Do you want to be financially independent and graduate debt-free? Do you want to study close to home? Is there a particular major, sports program, or educational philosophy that you value? Use the list above. Defining your deal breakers will help you weed out the peripheral factors from your must-haves.
2. What Do I Want From My College Experience?
Picture yourself, four years from now, in a cap and gown with a diploma in hand. What do you want to have accomplished? Of course, you'll have earned your degree — but that's not what it's all about. Whether it's an internship, study abroad experience, or a network of lifelong friends, think about what you're looking to get from your college experience.
3. What Environment Is Life-Giving for Me?
Before settling on a ZIP code, think about the surroundings that make you feel most alive. Some students enjoy the energy of a big city while others prefer immediate access to the great outdoors. Visualize yourself in a variety of locations. Think about what it would be like to live, study, and work there. Do you see yourself thriving?
4. Which Majors Spark My Interest?
Many students enter college without a specific major in mind. However, even if you're undecided, think about which programs you'd be interested in exploring. If a school doesn't have any options that appeal to you in the slightest, it's likely not the right fit.
5. What Are the Classes Like?
Class sizes matter greatly. After all, you'll be spending the bulk of your four years learning, sharing, and growing with your peers inside a classroom. Ask yourself whether you'd prefer a school where you have more opportunities to spend one-on-one time with a professor, either during office hours or performing research, or if you are the type of person who will thrive in a large class.
6. What Clubs or Activities Am I Interested In?
Academics are only one part of the college experience. Think about the sports, clubs, and activities you want to pursue. Whether you're passionate about performing arts or you'd like to join a vibrant multicultural student association, having specific activities will help you narrow down whether a school offers what you need.
7. Do the Housing Options Fit My Lifestyle?
Do you plan to live at home, on campus, or find your own off-campus accommodations? If you'll be living in a dormitory, think about whether you'd rather live solo or bunk with roommates. Research the housing options and prices for your prospective colleges to decide if it aligns with your preferences and budget.
8. How Did My College Visit Make Me Feel?
While the facts are important, your feelings matter too. We always encourage students to tour prospective colleges whenever possible. After your visit, reflect on the ambiance you noticed. What did you notice about the students, faculty, campus, and location? Did you feel excited or anxious? Maybe you felt comfortable and warm, or perhaps the campus felt high-energy and exciting.
When in doubt, follow your gut instincts. Sometimes you'll know the right college when you feel it.
9. What Kind of Community Do I Want to Join?
Think about the kind of community that will be both challenging and comfortable for you. Research the demographics of the campus, find out what clubs and organizations are popular, read the student newspaper to get an insider’s perspective, or catch a sporting event during your tour. All of these ideas can give you a glimpse into the school’s community and culture.
10. Can I Picture Myself Being Happy Here?
When all is said and done, you want to make a decision that will bring you joy. Your college will become home for the next four or so years of your life. It should be a place where you can grow, both academically and personally, and make memories that will last a lifetime. Again, trust your instincts. You’ll know when you’ve found the right-fit school.
Final Question: Are You Ready?
Lastly, it's time to ask yourself if you're ready to start college. If the answer is "no," that's perfectly okay!
Many students decide to take a break and pursue a postgraduate gap year instead. This can be a fantastic opportunity to pursue your passions, take a more challenging course load, and test the waters of living on your own in a dorm before deciding on the next step in life.
Whether you're gearing up to enter college or you're considering an alternate gap year, The Hun School of Princeton is here to help. Our faculty members are always available to answer your questions, offer advice, and connect you with college admissions counselors. Don't hesitate to reach out to us — we're your support team as you figure out the exciting future that awaits!