How You Know a School Is Right For You

by Kaitlin Reilly

It's finally happened – you got into college! Actually, you got into multiple colleges. That's awesome! Pat yourself on the back, you awesome student, you. But as exciting as it is to have options, picking a college isn't always easy. There's a lot to consider when it comes to finding the right fit for the next four years. Here are the definitive questions you should consider before making one of the most important commitments of your life. (No pressure.)

How much are you willing to spend on your undergraduate education?

College is one of the most expensive investments you'll ever make, and you really should take the cost of your undergraduate degree into serious consideration. (Trust us, NYU might not seem as cool four years from now when you're $80,000 in debt.)

What kind of learning environment do you thrive in?

Really consider the courses in which you tend to thrive: do you love your hands-on video production course, or do you prefer the independence of taking notes in a math class that's less interactive? Asking yourself these questions may help you realize whether you thrive in a small or large classroom environment.

And don't forget to ask about average class size when you're on a college tour — you might be surprised to find out that some very large universities average at only 30 people or so per class.

Is there a chance you may want to change your major?

Any school will let you switch majors, of course, but consider how much your dream major has to do with your interest in the school in the first place. I was between two schools with strong programs in my major — one was a small college with a communications focus, and the other was a university with a ton of different majors and several schools. I picked the latter, and am glad that I did — I would have been bummed to miss out on non-major-related courses like "The Philosophy of Horror."

It's hard to tell what will grab your interest until you start college (hey, that's what college is for — cultivating new interests!) but it might be smart to pick a school with a decent selection of majors if you think there's a chance you will want to explore other options.

Are you being swayed by a big name?

Sure, everyone has heard of Northwestern, but that doesn't mean that it will be a better fit for you than a lesser-known university. Don't worry about whether everyone will recognize what those three letters on your tee-shirt stands for. Plus, there's an upside to going to a lesser-known college — the second you meet someone who recognizes your school, you'll feel an insta-bond.

What kind of social scene are you looking for?

Of course you're going to school to learn, but let's be honest: you're pretty excited about the social scene of your new four-year home as well. Are you interested in Greek life? If so, perhaps you'll feel comfortable at a school that has a high percentage of students involved in it. Are you more interested in hitting up art galleries and museums on the weekends? A city school might be perfect for you.

Are you over-considering what your high school friends are doing?

As tempting as it is to attend school near your high school BFFs, make sure a school is right for you before factoring other people in. Trust me — you will ultimately be happier if you branch out and make friends of your own. If you're worried that you'll lose touch with your friends from home, remember that there's always Christmas and summer break to take advantage of.

How far are you willing to travel to come home?

Maybe you're ready to go as far as you possibly can from your hometown. Or perhaps you'd like to be able to come home for your great Aunt's birthday, your little sister's dance recital, and, on occasion, just a home-cooked meal and free laundry. It's important to be honest with yourself — if being a six-hour plane ride away from home feels more stressful than exciting, maybe take that opposite coast school off your short list.

What kind of weather can you deal with?

I know what you're thinking — who cares about the weather, right? You will when you're cursing yourself for picking a school that seems to be at the hub of every major snowstorm in the country, or when you're bummed that the palm trees don't change color in the fall at your coastal school.

Are you actually excited about the school?

If you've done the college tour, you probably got a good vibe about the school — or not. If a school sounds amazing on paper but visiting made you feel "meh,” then there's probably a good reason for that. I would recommend visiting a potential school twice (if it's within your budget and time frame) in order to get a good feel of the school. If you can picture yourself strolling to class alongside these students — and are excited about doing so — then it might really be the school for you.

Now go buy one of those insanely overpriced hoodies from the bookstore.

And congratulations!

Image: The WBGifs: giphy; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7