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When it comes to choosing a college, how do you know where to start? College choice is an important decision, but it does not have to be a stressful one. Ask yourself these questions to help narrow down your college options and find the best fit.

What will my major be?

If you already know what your major will be, it may help you narrow down schools, since not every major is available at every college. Additionally, the quality of the program will vary from school to school. Do some research on schools you are interested in and speak with faculty and/or students at specific schools, if you can.

Which colleges can I get into?

Colleges will have different levels of selectivity depending on your grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, and more. Talk to your school counselor about colleges that may be a good fit for you academically and, if needed, ways you can make yourself more competitive in the college application process.

Which colleges can I afford?

To find out where you can afford to go to college, you’ll need to take stock of your finances. First, get an idea of how much your parents will be able to help you financially. Next, complete the FAFSA to see how much federal grant/loan money you are eligible to receive. Most importantly, complete as many scholarship applications as you can. Between all of your sources of funding, you should get an idea of which schools you can afford. A community college is going to be cheaper than a four-year school, private schools cost more than public schools, and in-state schools are generally going to be more affordable than out-of-state schools. It is best to try and reduce your student loan debt as much as possible, so pick somewhere that won’t require you to take out your maximum loan amount.

What do I want my college experience to be?

To answer this question, you’ll have to consider your own preferences. When you picture yourself in college, do you want to be close to your family, or do you want to try somewhere new? Would you prefer to live in a city, or in a smaller town? How big do you want your classes to be? What kind of work/transportation/housing options will you need available to you? What extracurricular activities are you interested in (athletics, Greek life, etc.)? One of the best ways to experience specific colleges for yourself is to go on campus visits. Use this document to get ideas of questions to ask when visiting your top colleges.

Do I have outside circumstances that may affect where I go to college?

In the end, your opinion is the most important one to consider when choosing a college, but you may also have outside circumstances that you will need to consider. These may include family needs, work availability, disability accommodations, and more. Add any of these considerations to your list of questions to ask an admissions representative as needed.

Choosing a college is an important life decision, but by asking yourself the questions above, taking advice from trusted adults, and taking advantage of college visit opportunities, you can pick the best option for you. Now get out there and find your dream college!

By Allison Ourada