Comparing College Acceptances: How Do I Pick A College

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You’ve spent countless hours working hard to submit college applications, and now, your acceptances are finally here! It can be difficult to narrow down your options and choose a university to enroll in, and there are many elements you should think about before finalizing your decision.  During this process, it can be helpful to start a spreadsheet or table listing the different colleges you’re considering, along with the reasons. As you go, you can add notes in your spreadsheet to make your comparisons and final decision easier. 


Financial Packages and Loans

Before comparing different aspects across the universities on your list, you need to decide which factors are your priorities versus which you are willing to compromise on. For example, for one student, financial aid might bthe deciding factor, but for another student, the school’s environment might be much more important.  


  • Make sure you thoroughly estimate and understand the cost of attendance of each university  
    • Take into account merit-based scholarships, FAFSA, private and government loans, any money that may be earned through a job, and any amount your parents or family are willing to support you with
  • Research the potential for earning further aid or scholarships once you enroll in a particular college
  • You can sometimes negotiate aid with universities if a financial aid package isn’t enough to support your attending a specific college 
    • You can call the college’s financial aid office and explain your situation to see if they will meet your needs

Programs of Study

  • Research your school’s degree plan and requirements for your major
  • Make sure your program is accredited!
  • Find out what minors are offered, if that’s something you’re interested in
  • Find out if there are any special tracks, certifications, dual degree programs, or accelerated programs offered by the university, as this could sway your decision
  • Research any Honors programs and their benefits  
    • Most Honors programs offer early registration, which can be vital in getting the classes you want, as well as other resources
  • If you’re interested in Study Abroad programs, see if your university supports students with any special opportunities or scholarships   

School Environment / Resources

  • Consider the school’s campus feel, which includes: 
    • Number of students and class size 
    • Campus size – are classes easily reachable, will you need better modes of travel? 
    • Proximity to restaurants, movies, cities, and other entertainment centers  
    • Commuter campus versus on-campus residents  
    • Overall campus safety – are there police and other safety measures in place? 
    • Party and Greek life  
    • Weather 
    • Demographics 
  • Research the resources a university offers to its students, which include gyms, libraries, on-campus activities, events, discounts, religious organizations, and more

  • If you’re interested in joining a lot of extracurriculars, consider if the university you’re looking at has well-developed student organizations, or if it will take more effort to start such student groups  
    • In the case of newer universities, student government and organizations may not be as well developed, but this also gives you the opportunity to help shape your university by launching organizations of your own 

Career Network and Job Prospects

  • Consider a university’s graduation, retention, graduation debt, and job placement rates
  • Ask about the university’s career center and job fairs, what connections it has to surrounding businesses, and how much it prepares students for the workforce 
    • You can try using LinkedIn filters to see university alumni who work in a particular company or area
  • Look into research opportunities and which faculty teach at your university, and their availability to students  
    • This is especially important for students interested in building their resume for graduate school 
  • Find out the strength of the university’s alumni network, as this is crucial in connections and job placements 
  • Sometimes, a university’s prestige can also play an important factor, especially for highly competitive fields  

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