How to Choose a College That Will Prepare You For the Future

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Credit: Wikimedia Commons, PresbyPhotos

If you or someone you love is looking forward to college, you probably have some questions.

And we've set out to answer them. We want to help you figure out how to choose a college. Whether you're selecting a four-year university or a graduate college, it will probably impact your life. So treat the decision with the seriousness it deserves. But we don't want to take all the fun out of it. And it really can be a fun experience. If you go into it with realistic expectations, you can navigate the process like a champ.

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What You Will Need to Follow This Tutorial

If you're already considering where to attend, the hard part is probably done. After all, this is a continuation of an education you've already received. So you can use that experience to guide your next choices. But you'll want to keep a few specific things in mind and keep some tools handy. There isn't much you'll need, but getting everything together ahead of time will be a big help.
  1. Trusted guidance. No matter how many tips we include, we'll never cover every situation. So going through this process with someone you trust is important. In the end, how to choose a college is up to each individual student. But having someone with valuable experience and perspective is comforting.
  2. A realistic budget. We know it's a bummer to think about money before heading to college. But the alternative is worse: thinking about it after you graduate. So avoid the hassle and nagging debt associated with a loan that is too big. Calculate how much you can afford, taking into account any scholarships or grants.
  3. Some early favorites. You should make the final decision with as little emotion as possible. But we know you probably have a few dream schools in mind. If you go into the process with your eyes open, you can keep or exclude them as needed. And if you find out none of them meet all your needs, it's good to know that, too.

Instructions -- How to Choose a College

Stress can be a major factor when any prospective student starts weighing options. But the following tips are designed to lower your anxiety and focus on the real issues. Because once you decide what you want out of a college career, it's much easier to make a choice.

1. Get started early -- and don't rush.

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The main tip we want to share is to stay in control of the process. When you feel like learning how to choose a college is a reaction to circumstances, you lose. So make it a deliberate action on behalf of your future.

If you're already under the gun, don't wait! And if you think you've got plenty of time, get started anyway. It never hurts to think about the big picture at least. Depending on where you are in the process, it might make sense to just start putting out feelers. To get started, we recommend finding a counselor or trusted mentor. Often, someone who has been there before can give you a good road map of the process. Just make sure you're the one driving.

2. Don't rely too heavily on word of mouth.

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Whether it's a parent, friend or random stranger online, everyone's got an opinion. And you'll hear a bunch of them when you're trying to figure out how to choose a college. But we encourage you to take an active role in each of these conversations. Sure, most of these people will have your best interest at heart. This is your future, though. So accept the advice at face value.

If it fits within your goals, then by all means, act on it. But if you're not sure, we suggest you don't go on someone else's word alone. Do all the research you can and make an informed choice. After all, this is where you'll be spending much of the next few years.

3. By all means, schedule tours.

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This step kind of builds on the theme of the first two. First of all, visiting a prospective campus puts you in control. You're not relying on glowing photos posted online. There's a clear idea of where you'd be living, eating and studying.

Driving -- or flying, as the case might be -- will also give you important perspective. You'll know how far you'll be away from home and how that fits into your overall goals. So we recommend taking the trip with someone you trust and discussing your impressions. Another benefit is being able to meet some of the people. That includes administrators and staff who might be able to answer some nagging questions. You can find out a lot online, but sometimes nothing beats an in-person conversation.

4. Don't get tunnel vision.

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There are many factors that go into how to choose a college. And it is easy for a rising student to become fixated on one of those aspects. It could be the school you're significant other decided to attend. Maybe it's a school close to home -- or far away. You could even be preoccupied with a school's academic programs.

But if it's not a good fit for you personally, you will likely regret the choice. So sure, include the schools you think will like. Don't rule out colleges just because they don't have that one particular feature, though. As you consider more and more options, you might find your priorities have shifted. Things you didn't think you needed might seem vital in a different context. And that must-have feature you thought you couldn't do without could seem a little less important.


The key to figuring out how to choose a college lies in preparation.

We hope our tips have helped you get a better grasp on the priorities. Because once you check off a few items, your to do list is done. Then you can focus on the exciting part and start preparing for school.

If you found our guide helpful, share it with the college bound families in your life. And leave us a message below if you have any final thoughts or questions.

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