Tips for Choosing a College
Congratulations, you’ve been accepted to the University of Rochester! This is a very exciting accomplishment. If you’ve also been accepted to other colleges, you may be having a hard time deciding where to go. There are a lot of considerations before you put down a tuition deposit! To help you out, I’ve compiled a short list of what are (in my opinion) the most important things to consider before committing to a college, in no particular order. I’ve also included a few things that shouldn’t play a significant role in your decision. This is going to be a long post, but this is a big decision you’re about to make, so I think it’s worth the read.
1. Do you feel financially comfortable going there?
I say “financially comfortable” rather than “afford” because, in my view, to be able to afford something you don’t have to take out loans to acquire it. The reality for most of us is that we do need to take out some student loans. However, there is a difference between having to take out $100,000 in private loans and taking out $25,000 over your four years. Although $25,000 can seem like a lot of debt, if it’s subsidized you don’t have to pay interest while you’re in school, the interest rates aren’t bad, and it will equip you with the education to get a good job. Ask yourself how much you feel comfortable borrowing, how much your family can help pay for your education, and whether you think you can realistically pay off your loans in a timely manner after graduation. It’s also worth thinking about whether the high cost of a school is worth it. If you’re looking at a school that costs $80,000 but the faculty aren’t great, resources are scarce, and students seem unhappy, you’ve got to wonder why it’s that expensive.
2. Does the school have a suitable program for you?
You don’t want to commit to a school to study epidemiology if they don’t have a relevant major and faculty who do research in that. If you’re undecided, that’s totally okay, and here is where I would recommend UR. Our flexible curriculum allows for exploration and pursuing a variety of passions, which is helpful in determining what you want to major in. If you want to minor or take courses in another field to supplement your major, career goals, or passions, Rochester is great for that. Rochester is also nice for the flexibility it provides lending itself to making it easy to change majors. If the school you’re eyeballing doesn’t have an existing program that suits you, does it at least provide you the freedom and resources to make your own? Another program consideration is whether students commonly study abroad if that’s something you’re interested in.
3. Location, location, location
Where in the world you go to college can help shape your educational experience, career, and personal growth. You don’t want to commit to a school that’s in a place you would not thrive in. If you’re a big-city kind of person, a college in Nowhere, USA would not be a good fit. If hiking in the mountains is your primary form of exercise and self-care, probably don’t go to school in Iowa. How far away from home are you comfortable being? Where you choose to college can also help you develop a network in that area that will help you find a job later on. For those who are into finance, having professors, career advisors, and a network in the NYC area would be very helpful. All that said, choosing to go to a school in California because you want sun and surf, for example, is probably unwise.
4. Size isn’t everything, but it matters
I was really interested in a school until I toured it and felt what a student population of less than 3,500 feels like. In an hour I felt like I’d seen just about everything there is to the 50-acre campus and couldn’t imagine spending four years with the same few people on the same small patch of land. I also couldn’t imagine going to a university that I grew up around, which has an enrollment of almost 50,000 and sits on over 600 acres. For reference, Rochester has a total enrollment of over 12,000 students, and River Campus is 154 acres. What size, both population and physical, fits your personality best?
There’s something to be said about the feeling you get about a school. The best way to pick up on this is with an in-person tour, but since that’s not possible, a Zoom call is good enough. One of the reasons I chose to go to Rochester was that students seemed passionate and intellectual, but not snobby. The people I met were happy to talk to me about the University and seemed to really like it here. Some of the other schools I toured had guides that did not display that enthusiasm for their school and students were very closed-off, which I didn’t like. Does the college you’re considering attending just feel right? Can you see yourself living there for the next four years?
Things to Not Put Much Stock In
1. Whether you will know anybody
Please don’t choose a college because that’s where your friends from home are going. You will meet people quickly, so you really don’t need to enter a school knowing anybody.
2. How new or fancy the facilities are
When I was touring colleges in high school, I visited one school that was very impressive from the outside. The gym was state-of-the-art, the dorms were all brand new, they had excessive sports fields, and everything looked super nice. Turns out it wasn’t actually that great of a school. Don’t let a flashy campus fool you into committing to a school where you won’t get the best education.
I hope this helps guide the difficult decision you have on your hands!