The reality of choosing a college is sometimes it is a truly daunting task. There are so many programs to choose from, schools to pick, or even alternative programs if you decide not to go to a university.

Choosing a college to attend after my senior year of high Shhool was a challenge. I know I wasn’t alone in this decision as many of my friends and I would have in depth conversations over lunch about which schools would best fit us. Maybe you’re caught in trying to figure out where to attend as well. Never fear, you are not alone!

However, there are a several things you can do to make this monumental task easier.

1. Start by picking a program or major you are interested in
Find a program or area of study you are interested in and look for college’s which have a program that matches. Since college is expensive, it is worth it to choose a school which you can successfully graduate from to do something you love. It will also narrow down the amount of schools to chose from. 

In high school I chose to follow a pre-physical therapy track as well as looking at schools with an education program. (Two very different programs) While I was looking around for colleges, I was amazed at how many schools didn’t have both of those programs. This helped me to eliminate many schools and narrow down my search.

2. Figure out your budget
Now that you’ve narrowed down your pool of schools, the next step is to figure out if your budget fits any of them. Discuss with anyone who may be helping you with college or look at your own bank account to figure out what your budget may be. Make sure you choose a school which fits your budget and that you can attend that makes sense financially. 

By determining your budget, this should also help you narrow down what you are looking for. There will be some schools you may not be able to afford, and that is okay. Eliminate them from your list of schools.

3. Determine Whether to Stay In-State, or Attend Out-of-State.
This was a huge deciding factor of mine. Some of the schools I was interested in were on the other side of the country and at least three times zones away. I decided because of that, they would have to be eliminated from the list. Others were less than an hour from home. As much as I love my parents, I did want my college experience to be a little further away, so I ended up eliminating the schools closest to home. I decided because of Colorado (my home) was similar to the Midwest and not too far away, I’d limit myself to schools in the Central US.

Maybe you don’t feel comfortable with going to school out of state whatsoever, so you limit yourself to schools in-state. Maybe you don’t want to go to a school in-state which can also narrow down your list. Make sure you factor in transportation to school from home as you make your decision.

4. College Visit
When you have a few schools on your list you are serious about, consider going on college visits to each school. As a former Admissions Ambassador for my school, I cannot stress this enough. The top school on my list I idolized. It was my dream school even when I hadn’t been there before. When my parents took me to visit the school I was shocked to find everyone I came in to contact with was rude and cold-shouldered. I was so disappointed until I realized how much of a blessing going on that college visit had been. Had I gone ahead with attending school there without visiting first, I cannot see myself happy for long.

Visiting a college can give you a good feel as to what the school is like; how the campus feels, who the people that attend are, and how the classes go. I would recommend staying overnight in the dorms if the college allows it, and even attending a few classes. Get a good feel for the school with the whole intent of trying to understand, “Does this college fit me?”

5. Apply
Don’t delay too long in applying for schools. Apply for more than one or two schools just in case something doesn’t work out with your top choice. Make sure you proofread your application essays and have other friends read through them as well to make sure they best fit you. I even asked my teachers in high school to read through them to make sure they sounded strong. 

6. Look for Scholarships
Once you have applied, maybe received a few college offers, start looking and applying for scholarships. There are so many out there. Sites such as Scholarship.com or even googling “Scholarships” can bring up a wealth of resources. Or ask your guidance counselor because chances are they have a list of various scholarships to apply for. Often, churches or small clubs and organizations offer scholarships which few people know about. Take a look around, I think you’ll be surprised at what you find. 

7. Talk about your college decision
The best thing you can do is talk about your college decision. Getting others’ input can be incredibly helpful, whether it’s your parents, teachers, guidance counselor, best friend, other family members or someone you trust.  By talking things through you can often make sense of the right path for yourself. This isn’t a decision to take lightly and it helps to have your tribe on board.

8. Make the decision that best fits you
In the end, your decision is up to you. Choose the college which best fits yourself, and celebrate when you decide! This is an exciting time in life and now all that’s left is to go enjoy it!

How did you pick your college? Have any tips to share? Leave them in the comments below!

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