Deciding on a College: How to Choose Which University to Attend

Go from not knowing where you'll be accepted to knowing where you'll go

Headed into college for the day
PeopleImages / Getty Images

For many, many months, you've probably been preparing to apply to college. And then applying. And then waiting—anxiously. Now that you've heard back from schools, you're faced with a critical decision: Where to spend the next four years of your life? How's a person to decide which college to attend?

The decision, while weighty, can be handled by breaking it down a bit.

What Does Your Brain Say?

One of the most important things for students to remember when deciding on a college is what kind of learner they are. Do you learn best in a large lecture hall? In small discussion? Something in between? Do you want to be able to ​talk with your professor? Think less about your major—no matter how sure you are of it—and more about your interests. If you change your mind, are you stuck in a particular program or school? Can you move around? What will your brain need for college classes? Which school can best provide it?

What Does Your Gut Say?

Some students know the second they walk onto a campus that it's the perfect (or worst possible) place for them. Others aren't too sure; others still may not be able to visit a campus before they decide to go there. No matter what, listen to what your gut says. A lot of times, students discount that gut-instinct feeling because it's hard to explain to other people (especially parents!). But it's really important. When you walked on (or think about) the campus, what does your gut say? Can you picture yourself decorating your residence hall room or are you immediately thinking of how often you'll be able to come home? Does it have all of the things that make you happy outside of class: sports, clubs, writing opportunities, research, a great library, interesting people, an exciting city? What do other students at the school have to say about their experience there? Does a school feel "right"—or "wrong"?

What Does Your Wallet Say?

Let's be real: finances play a big role in where you decide to go. Even if you love two places equally, getting a full scholarship from one school and not the other is a pretty hard thing to turn down. Take a good, solid look at your finances, while remembering that most financial aid packages are negotiable. Working to get the best package you can is important; however, it's also important to remember that getting a free ride at a school you may drop out of because you hate it may be more expensive in the long-run than making it quickly through a place you totally love.

Choosing which school to attend is a big decision. It can be just as stressful as applying to school -- except that all that stress is crammed into a much shorter span of time. With a deep breath, a little focusing, and a lot of thinking (that's why you're going to college, right?), you can make sure you make the choice that's right for you.