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How do I choose a college after being accepted?

Published March 28, 2024| minute read
Hadiya Iqbal

Senior Associate, JPMorgan Chase

    Congratulations on being accepted to college. The application process was likely a long road, but now you’re at the end of it, and it’s finally time to decide which college you want to attend.

    This decision will feel different from other parts of the process — you’ll know where you’ve been accepted and what financial aid packages, if any, you’ve been offered. The power is now in your hands.

    Still, unquestionably, deciding which college to attend is a lot of pressure. Here are 13 key factors you should consider.

    1. Compare and contrast general education requirements

    Some colleges have a considerable amount of general education requirements, while other colleges have none. Some colleges have strict rules regarding placing out of general education requirements, while others are much less stringent. This is why general education requirements are something to compare when deciding on a college to attend. You might like the idea of attending a college with rigorous core requirements, or you might want to attend a school where you can get started on your major sooner rather than later.

    2. Consider your academic goals and research available majors

    Look at each college you’ve been accepted to and see which programs and majors they offer. You may also want to research the requirements of the majors you’re most interested in. Lastly, you might want to explore how well respected a particular major is at each school you’ve been accepted to. Remember, not all majors are equal at colleges. For instance, a school might have fantastic English department but be lackluster when it comes to biology or vice versa.

    3. Look into colleges' rules when it comes to bringing credits with you from high school

    If you took college-level classes in high school that you’d like credit for in college, check each college's rules on this, as they can vary. If you had planned to bring quite a few Advanced Placement (AP) credits with you from high school, for instance, you’ll want to make sure that’s allowed by the college you ultimately attend.

    4. Assess school size

    Because you might rather be in large classes or a part of a smaller group of students, it’s important to look at each school’s campus size, enrollment numbers, and class sizes. Remember that fewer students in a class will likely mean more interaction with faculty members.

    5. Consider the mix of online and on-campus classes

    Although online classes give you the benefit of taking classes from anywhere and in the comfort of your own home, on-campus classes allow you to interact with faculty and your classmates. Depending on your schedule and if you’re juggling work and other responsibilities, predominantly taking online classes may be more feasible for you, or you might prefer to take on-campus classes. Add this to your list of things to research as you decide which college to accept.

    6. Look closely at the cost of attendance

    Tuition and other college-related costs are often a huge deciding factor when choosing a college, so look into room and board costs, the cost of living in each area the colleges are in, and the travel costs to get home. Remember, the total cost of attending college is much more than the tuition.

    7. Compare financial aid offerings

    If you’ve been offered student loans, scholarships, grants, or other financial aid from different schools, factor this in, as this can dramatically impact your attendance cost. All schools will offer you different financial aid packages, making it important to compare and contrast packages to see what your total cost would come out to at each school you're considering.

    8. Factor in the location of colleges

    You’ve heard the saying “location, location, location,” and this holds true when you decide on a college. Would you prefer to be in a big city or a small town? What parts of the country are the colleges you’ve been accepted to in, and how easy will it be to get home? Are there employment opportunities near campus? Consider location carefully.

    9. Learn more about the community on campus

    Suppose you want to get involved in student leadership on campus. Consider looking into the campus communities of the colleges you’ve been accepted to and see where you could best fit and thrive in a leadership role.

    Similarly, if getting involved in a fraternity or sorority is on your list when in college, look into the various Greek life opportunities to see which one you'd be most interested in. You can usually better understand campus communities by speaking to current students or alums, so don’t be afraid to reach out to some for their thoughts.

    10. Research the extracurricular opportunities

    If you’re interested in joining a sailing team, the chances of a college in Kansas having one may be low. List your priorities regarding extracurricular activities and compare that with your accepted colleges’ list to see if any of the colleges you’ve been accepted to stand out from the pack.

    11. Identify available resources to support your career growth

    For many people, it’s important to attend a college that’ll help them meet their academic and career goals, offering a solid investment for their time and money. You can do this by investigating how helpful each college you’ve been accepted to is in helping students secure internships, seeing if each college has a career center, and seeing if companies have been known to recruit job candidates on each college campus.

    12. Pay attention to postgraduate success

    There's a lot of data out there on how successful students are at each college after they graduate, including what they go on to do after college (be it graduate school or joining the workforce) and what median salaries are for students at each college after they graduate. Make this a part of your decision.

    13. Remember that no college decision is truly final

    Even after a lot of research, students can end up at schools that aren’t quite right for them. Whether students change their major, opt for a cheaper school, or want to move closer to home, there are countless reasons someone might want to transfer colleges. With that in mind, know that you won’t be stuck as you decide on a college after your acceptances come in. If the college you choose doesn’t ultimately work for you, you can likely transfer.

    Final thoughts

    Whether you’re deciding between two colleges or you’re lucky enough to have received multiple acceptance letters, keep these tips in mind as you weigh your options. Ultimately, the decision is yours when determining which college is the best fit for you, and the best you can do is, do your research and trust your gut.