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How to Decide Which College is Right for You

Over the past week, I’ve had more students ask for help in deciding where to attend college than any other year. They're feeling the pressure of the May 1st deadline when colleges expect to hear whether they are planning to attend.

These students feel like they are behind in making a decision as their friends and classmates don their college choices on hats, t-shirts and sweatshirts. When asked about where they plan to go to college, they cringe. They're just not sure. They don’t want to make a mistake on one of the biggest decisions of their life.

"Tune out the static. Only you can make the right decision about where to go to #college" TWEET THIS

If you are having trouble deciding where to go to college, take a step back and follow these six steps. In no time, you’ll be feeling a huge weight off your shoulders and a newfound vision for yourself:
  1. If you were admitted to a number of colleges, start eliminating the ones that you know you would never attend. Hone in on two choices. Having too many options can feel overwhelming, but narrowing them down to a few makes the choice much clearer.
  2. Look within yourself instead of feeling the need to ask dozens of students, faculty, and alumni about what the college is like. If you did your research and visited, the answer lies within. Too many opinions and voices will drown out your own vision for yourself. And, if you feel the need to seek out that many individuals to convince you, it’s probably not the right place for you.
  3. Close your eyes and ask yourself, “Where do I see myself going?” The answer is what you see. It is the ultimate dream that you want for yourself.

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  4. If you see multiple colleges when you close your eyes, ask yourself one more question: “What college is going to truly stretch me academically, socially, and culturally?” College should rarely be the “safe” choice. If you’re feeling a little nervous about your answer, that’s called “aspiration.” Never deny yourself that.
  5. If the decision comes down to money, own it, and go with it. You will reap tremendous benefits from this. But if the decision has no restrictions, take the risk because the rewards will be that much greater.
  6. And, if all else fails, play the “College Enrollment Mind Game.” For the purposes of the exercise, imagine choosing “College A” for a moment. Think about sending in the deposit, getting ready to go there, and being a student there. How does that feel? Do you have regrets about “College B?” Then, do the same thing with “College B.” Does choosing “College B” make you want “College A?” Making the choice feel real will help identify the college you absolutely should attend.

As much input as students receive about where to go to college, the decision has to feel good to them. While many of my students want me to give them the answer about where they should go, I want them to come to their own conclusions. So, I follow these steps when speaking to them, and the answer is always clear. It’s their decision, but sometimes they just need a little direction and their future takes shape.

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