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Getting into college

April can be an overwhelming month for 12th-grade students. It’s that time of year when emails reveal college admittances. Trying to get into a school of choice can be a heartbreaking experience.

Rather than joy about the next leg of their educational journey, and the college that will get them there, so many students feel conflicted if they don’t get into their school of choice.

Peer groups, family, and friends are curious about college acceptance. Social media is full of messages from students touting admission into a desired school. For those who haven’t, a pending decision, and delayed status updates on social media can be distressing

Choosing the right college

Choosing the right college can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Numerous options are available across the country. Sometimes it can be bewildering with every college vying for attention with flashy signs and promises of great deals.

Our journey towards college admission involved visiting six UC campuses out of eight, three community colleges, two Cal State, and a few private universities. With so many options choosing the right fit can confusing. Each institution has unique characteristics and strengths, from tuition fees to campus amenities.

The picture shows a smiling family out of doors
Neil’s family college decision 3 (image courtesy: Dr. Seeema Choudhary)

Learning about a campus

Before our college visits, I contemplated what one could learn about a campus, merely by observing buildings and strangers. I was dubious about claims from students who ‘fell in love at first sight’ with a campus they visited for the first time.

But I discovered these visits offered many insights for parents and children struggling with making a decision about ‘fit’.

Do visit a college beforehand. The campus, its buildings, its setting, its friendliness, the way they set up their tour, and their story-telling will definitely help shape your decision.

Factoring in the best fit

Regardless, here are some questions that can help you and your child make that determination.

  • Can you pursue the degree program you want? It’s essential to ensure that the college offers the program or major you’re interested in pursuing.
  • Big city or small town? Consider whether you’d prefer the hustle and bustle of a big city or the quietness of a small town.
  • Do you like cold weather? The climate can play a significant role in your college experience, so consider whether you can handle the cold if you’re not used to it.
  • Student-to-professor ratio: If you prefer meaningful relationships with your professors, consider smaller classes.
  • Affordability: Ensure that the college you select is a financial match for you to avoid being burdened by student loans.
  • Do you like the student body? You’ll be spending several years with the other students, so it’s essential to consider whether you like the overall vibe and culture of the student body.
  • How’s the food? Good food can make a big difference in your quality of life at college.

College dealbreakers

Other important factors to consider include the availability and quality of campus facilities such as labs, internet, and hostels. The quality of faculty is also important, although not necessarily a deal breaker. If you’re interested in extracurricular activities, it’s worth looking into the number and variety of active clubs and societies on campus. If a college has a strong placement record in your specific field of study, that’s definitely a plus, as is an alumni network. However, it’s also important to look beyond just the placement numbers and consider the overall student culture and atmosphere. Talking to current students can give you a good idea of what kind of crowd exists on campus and whether it’s a supportive, innovative, and creative environment.

Choosing a college is a personal experience. These factors can significantly impact the quality of life during the college years. Ultimately, choosing the right college is a personal decision that depends on your individual needs and preferences. By considering these factors, you can make an informed decision and choose a college that’s the best fit for you.