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Dormify Team

Big Sister Series: How to Choose the Right College For You

When it comes to figuring out how to pick a college you should attend, there are so many different things to think about. Some of the top factors in choosing a college include considering the education you’ll get, of course, and what colleges you can get into—and which ones you can afford. Plus you’ll want to think about where you want to live, what programs the college offers, and so many other considerations.

If you’ve been over there thinking, well, how do I start looking at colleges?—we’re here to help. Keep reading for our tips on how to choose the right college for you. Consider it your own personal “choosing a college” checklist!

Examine Your Finances

Truth time: For most of us, college is the first huge financial investment you'll make. So it's super important to think money-wise when you’re picking which college you'll attend. First step? Consider what you can afford—and, as another side of the same coin, where you can find financial support. Have an honest conversation with your parents to find out what (or if) they can contribute to your college education. Investigate your own savings and earning potential (if you plan to work while in school) so you have a full picture of what you’re working with.

Once you’ve figured out which colleges you are most interested in, break down the four-year cost between your top contenders. Don't forget to take living costs into consideration, too. Next, research scholarships that each college provides to determine if you might be eligible. And don’t limit the options to academic or athletic scholarships; artistic scholarships, cultural grants, need-based assistance and other funds may be available. (Check out Sallie Mae's scholarship search tool to see other possibilities.) Look into FAFSA, government loans, and private loans. Then make the call on whether each school is affordable for you, and if it’s worth the investment. These might be hard questions to consider, but it’s super important to examine all the costs and understand what your resulting debt and future repayments might look like after you graduate. Come into the process with your eyes open!

Location, Location, Location

Where your school is located can make a huge difference in your college experience. City-based colleges offer a distinct vibe, versus a school located in a more rural environment. Do you want the bustle and accessibility of an urban college or the peaceful, insulated atmosphere of a school that creates its own college town?

Apart from the environment you’ll be in once at school, make sure to think through how far or near you want to be from home. Do you want to be within a few hours’ drive? Or would you rather experience a totally new location, even if it’s a plane ride across the country? Knowing your comfort level with distance will help you narrow down your options.

Select a Major

While choosing a major might seem kinda easy—just think about your fave subject and pick that, right?—it’s not quite that simple. It’s important to consider a major in an area you feel passionate about and interested in, of course, because you’ll be studying that subject full-time for the next few years, and then possibly working in that field for a lifetime.

However, it’s also important to research exactly what jobs the major might yield post-graduation. What are your career goals? How about your lifestyle preferences and values? What kind of earnings potential do jobs for this major typically have? Make sure your choice aligns with the lifestyle you want to have later on.

Take the time to chat with adults in your life that have been through it and know you well, including your parents or guardians, school counselors and other people you trust. Once you’ve settled on a major, research the schools you’re considering to make sure they offer that area of study and whether the college has a good record of success for graduates in that major.

Other Considerations

There may be other important factors that matter a lot to you. Do you definitely want to join a sorority? Make sure you choose a college that has a strong Greek Life presence. Do you want a school that offers a diverse student body, or has a large presence of a specific religion or culture? Take a deep dive into the university’s student population. Are you hoping for a huge university with a large student body, or a small school? All of these are individual preferences that can make a big difference in your experience and overall satisfaction at a school, so try to weigh all the factors when choosing your college. 

Looking for more college advice? Scroll through our blog for all the tips and real-life lessons on starting college, then check out our Instagram and TikTok for everything from styling tips to college life hacks.