In April, students and families wonder how to choose among several colleges that offered admission. The “where do I go” question can be agonizing (in a good way). Try simplifying your decision-making process with two inquiries.
What is the structure of the curriculum? For the vast majority of students – and this likely means YOU – a great university will have more academic resources than you can exhaust and more academic rigor than you can imagine. The best question to ask is whether the structure of the curriculum fits you well. Is it deep enough, flexible enough, or structured enough? If you know with certainty what you wish to study, then starting your path immediately allows you to study more deeply during your time in college.
If you do not know with certainty, or if you wish to study multiple subjects, choose a college that does not require you to pick a major immediately. Even amongst colleges that give you time to investigate and research your direction, the pre-major curricula vary widely. Some require a very structured core of classes, while others have no restrictions at all, and others have an in-between “general” education. Look for a curriculum that fits your needs.
What is the environment in and around the college? Young students do not realize how different college is from high school. Instead of being in a classroom 6-7 hours each day, your schedule will probably only involve 12-15 hours of class time each WEEK. How you spend your non-class hours is perhaps the most influential component of growth in college.
Consider your environment. Is the university residential for all four years, or will you live in an apartment? You grow through social and intellectual interaction, so understand how you will – and won’t – interact with other students. Does the area surrounding the campus inspire you, or is it lacking? We naturally perform better when we’re in a good mood, so be sure that the entire situation is uplifting.
Remember, your college experience will be much different during the first year or two (when you’re getting acquainted) than during the second half (when you’re well-acquainted and may seek to do more).
Ultimately, after doing your research, trust your intuition. All else being equal, pick the school that excites you most. Happiness and pride usually translate into better effort and better results!