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How to Make the Right College Decision in Five Minutes or Less



1.sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior.

“She froze in panic, as if the wrong decision would catapult her into the miserable expanse of failure and a career at McDonald’s.”

how to make the right college choice example photo

You see it. The light at the end of the tunnel. It’s so close you can practically feel the warm rays of relaxation, the sweet relief of having made a decision and not just any decision, but the right one. There’s only one problem. You haven’t done it yet. In fact, you’ve put it off until the last possible minute and now feel the lump inside your stomach growing at an exponential rate, trapped in the messy mire of your own creation. Panic becomes the new normal.

To what am I referring?  Your college choice, of course.

There’s no mistake in applying to a plethora of good choices, it’s when the time comes to make the best, right decision for you that the world screeches to a halt. So in order to prevent mass panic I’ve compiled a list of fool-proof tips that will help you narrow down your decision in a matter of minutes.

But before we begin, take a deep breath. Your life won’t be over if you do end up making the “wrong” choice. There’s this nifty thing called transferring and despite what you may assume, it’s not unheard of and completely acceptable. So that’s a load off of your shoulders right off the bat!


Ready to choose a college? Let’s go.


The Right Stuff.

If there are any colleges still on your list that have to do with following a significant other, your parents are legacies there and you are facing an enormous amount of pressure to attend their alma matter, it’s the cheapest (yes, I did say that), you want to prove a point or it has the most prestige, take a second look. You need to choose a college that is going to be the right fit academically and socially for you. Even if the school may be the cheapest on your list all the money you save won’t be worth spending four years at a place you don’t belong. If you could say yes to any of the above, start over and find yourself in . . .


This is how I personally found my way to Grove City College. It’s simple: take a piece of paper, fold it in two and label the columns “pros” and “cons.” Do this for each college you are applying to. If for any school the cons outweigh the pros, you have a problem. If you can’t figure out if the pros outweigh the cons, create numerical values for each characteristic (I did a one to 10 scale with 10 being the most important attribute) and tally up your results.

Location, Location . . . . Location?

You may have heard location is everything, and I do believe in certain cases that is an important attribute. But if you are leaning towards a school based upon your dorm’s proximity to the beach, or your ability to go bouldering every day, that might not be your smartest move. Take into account all the other attributes of the school first. If I was choosing simply by location I would be in sunny Southern California instead of Western Pennsylvania. It was hard kissing that school goodbye, but at the end of the day if I chose the school that fulfilled every other category perfectly (sans location) and it ended up being the right fit for me.

The Realist.

Can you afford to go to this school? Will it put you in debt till you’re 75? Which school offered you the most scholarships? Take a good hard look at your current financial situation and where you aim to be in the future. Most of the time I recommend to look beyond money and choose a school with a history of good return on investments; however that’s not realistic for everyone. Talk with your parents and figure out which schools you should cross off your list based off of lack of financial aid or the obscene number of loans you might have to take out to graduate.

Back to the Future.

It all revolves around everyone’s favorite question: what do you want to be when you grow up? When choosing a college this inquiry becomes very real, however, and should not be taken lightly. Though you may not know exactly what your major will be, or what your future career goals are, choose a school that has a variety of interesting programs you could see yourself enrolling in. Don’t limit yourself right off the bat and choose a school with an amazing taco bar, but no fields of study you find particularly fascinating. Also jobs. Kind of a big deal these days. Find a school that will offer you assistance and has an extensive alumni network. I cannot stress this enough, especially in today’s market where it doesn’t matter as much where your degree came from but rather who you know.


If you’re still lost in a sea of questions no matter how much research and contemplation you’ve given to this college decision, as a complete last resort: flip a coin. You may think I’m joking but I promise you I know someone who made their college decision based upon this and is doing quite well for themselves. But remember: Last. Resort.


Have a tip that helped you narrow down your college decision? Comment below!


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