How to Pick the Right College

Choosing the right college is one of the most significant decisions in a young adult’s life. The right choice can set the foundation for future success and personal growth, while the wrong one can lead to unnecessary struggles and dissatisfaction. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to pick a college that aligns with your goals, interests, and needs.

1. Define Your Priorities

Start by understanding what you want out of your college experience. Priorities can vary greatly from one student to another. Some might prioritize academic excellence and the availability of specific programs, while others might look for vibrant campus life, strong athletic programs, or unique extracurricular opportunities. Make a list of what matters most to you, such as location, size, cost, academic programs, campus culture, and post-graduate opportunities.

2. Research Academic Programs

Identify colleges that offer strong programs in your area of interest. Look at the curriculum, faculty qualifications, research opportunities, and success stories of graduates from those programs. If you’re undecided on a major, consider schools with a wide range of strong programs and the flexibility to explore different fields.

3. Evaluate the Campus Environment

Campus life plays a crucial role in your overall college experience. Visit campuses if possible to get a feel for the environment. Consider the size of the student body, class sizes, campus facilities, and available resources. Pay attention to the social atmosphere – is it diverse and inclusive? Are there clubs and organizations that match your interests? Do you think you’ll feel comfortable there?

4. Consider Location

Location can significantly impact your college experience. Decide whether you prefer an urban, suburban, or rural setting. Think about the climate, proximity to home, and the availability of internships and job opportunities in the area. A college’s location can also affect living expenses, so consider the cost of living in the area.

5. Assess Financial Considerations

Cost is a major factor in choosing a college. Evaluate tuition fees, accommodation costs, and other expenses. Research financial aid options, including scholarships, grants, work-study programs, and loans. Many schools offer financial aid calculators on their websites, which can help you estimate the net cost after aid. Remember, the most expensive school is not necessarily the best fit for you, AND please be aware that the Ivy League schools are some of the best endowed, meaning that if they want you they have the money to make that actually possible for you and your family, so don’t rule out applying because of cost.  I’ve had many students get full scholarships to Ivy League schools because of financial need.

6. Investigate Campus Support Services

Support services can enhance your college experience and success. Look into the availability of academic advising, career counseling, mental health services, tutoring centers, and student organizations. Strong support services can help you navigate challenges and make the most of your college years as well as help you prepare for law school, or med school, or any post-graduate program.

7. Look at Post-Graduation Outcomes

Consider the success of graduates from the colleges you’re interested in. Research graduation rates, job placement rates, and the average starting salaries of graduates. Schools often provide this information through their career services offices or on their websites. Alumni networks can also be a valuable resource for internships and job placements.

8. Seek Personal Insights

Talk to current students and alumni to get an insider’s perspective on the colleges you’re considering. They can provide honest insights into what it’s like to attend a particular school, the quality of education, campus life, and the overall student experience. Online forums and social media groups can also be useful for gathering opinions and advice, as well as campus visits.  Some schools even let you spend the night in the dorm with a volunteer “student guide”.

9. Trust Your Instincts

After gathering all the information, trust your instincts. Sometimes, your gut feeling about a place can be just as important as the facts and figures. Imagine yourself on the campus, interacting with the community, and participating in activities. Choose a college where you feel comfortable and excited about spending the next few years.

10. Make an Informed Decision

Once you have all the information, compare your options. Weigh the pros and cons of each college based on your priorities and preferences. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all answer; the best college for you is the one that fits your unique needs and aspirations.

Choosing a college is a significant step in your educational journey. By carefully considering your priorities, conducting thorough research, and trusting your instincts, you can make a well-informed decision that sets you on the path to success and fulfillment.

Want expert help this year with your college applications? I’m a former Harvard admissions interviewer + a Harvard grad, and specialize in helping students get into the school of their dreams!

Contact me today at: for a free consultation.  I would be happy to discuss your plans. 

And, if you like this article, check out my other blog posts as well, such as:

  1. The Best Engineering Colleges in the US
  2. How to Get Into Harvard
  3. The Best Engineering Programs in the US
  4. The College Admissions Activity List

And you can also buy my book on Amazon!  THE IVY LEAGUE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS GUIDEBOOK, linked here: