Congratulations on your acceptance to college! You deserved it. Getting into college during an unprecedented global pandemic is by no means an easy feat. This deserves a pat on the back and a standing ovation from your friends here at Empowerly. Now that you’re in, are you conflicted about choosing a college during the pandemic? Selecting a school is more than just rankings.
Now that you’ve been accepted, you can definitively bid farewell to all those delightful AP practice exams and SAT study sessions for good. All your hard work has paid off. As you’re reminiscing about those grueling times, you realize another problem: where should you spend the next four years of your life?
While some may be quick to simply suggest choosing the highest-ranking college among your options, we, on the other hand, believe that it’s important to carefully do your due diligence to see which school fits you best.
It’s important to also note the required date that your accepted colleges would like to hear back from you. This would help you determine how much time you have to do your research. Most schools typically like to get your decision by May 1st or approximately one month from receiving your acceptance letter, depending on the school.
Factors to Consider in Your Research for Choosing a College During the Pandemic
Cost of attendance & financial aid package
Colleges are not cheap and monster loans are not fun to deal with post-graduation. It’s important to do an analysis of your expected total cost of attendance per year and for the full duration of your time in college. Estimated costs of attendance (books, rooming, dining, student insurance, etc) are typically included in your welcome package or school website. This analysis is critical because for example, a private school may offer you a large financial aid package, but the cost of attendance may still come out higher than your public school options offering a lower financial aid package.
Don’t rule out negotiating financial aid packages with your schools! Be sure to give the school’s financial aid office a call and tell them about any extenuating family financial situations and/or your competing school offers. If you do so, it’s important to also express your continued interest in the school and what kind of difference a better financial aid package will make for you.
Assessing school opportunities for your intended major
Colleges do not provide the same amount of funding for each department and their majors. Just because a school ranks higher on the US Education News report, doesn’t mean that school has a better program for your major. For example, Cornell University may rank higher overall; but, if you intend to study film, then UCLA may be a better choice based on its location, alumni, connections with local companies, and curriculum offerings.
During this pandemic, it may be tough to visit all the different schools you are trying to decide between. However, don’t be afraid to give the school’s major department a call to chat about their curriculum, career support opportunities, clubs, and funding.
Chat with alumni & current students
In order for schools to win you over, they typically recruit students and even alumni to talk to prospective candidates. They aim to provide you with a glimpse into what life would be like as a student at their college. Here is your opportunity to chat with them about everything:
- the local dining scene,
- different clubs,
- favorite classes,
- favorite coffee shops,
- best dorm building,
- weather, school traditions,
- local internship opportunities, etc.
The list is endless! This will all be part of your due diligence to gauge if a school is the right fit for you. Sure the perspectives of these students and alumni may be a tad biased, but here is your chance to get connected with these individuals and push them with a couple of tough questions.
Post graduation job opportunities
All universities publish a public report on where their students end up working post-graduation, while some may even provide the average starting salary. Here is your chance to see if those post-graduation opportunities align with your career goals. As a high school student, you are not by any means expected to know what you want out of your career. However, this insight would help you understand the general career direction that past alumni in your intended major have pursued.
The school vibe definitely matters in your college selection process! Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, this is different. It might be hard to gain a true sense of what the school vibe is like if you can’t visit the campus. For folks who can visit, it may not feel the same because schools aren’t in full operation. A campus will be much quieter without their entire student body present. However, we’d highly recommend checking out Youtube videos or vlogs. Video content allows you to gain a sense of what the campus is like from the content creator’s perspective. Thoughts from online campus tours, campus life, school architecture, weather, and food all matter too!
After performing your due diligence, reflect honestly to yourself. What were some of the key highlights you liked about a particular college? Was it the people? Or curriculum? Or location? Do the finances make sense? Your decision may ultimately come down to the gut, but it definitely helps having done your full research to know what you’re walking into.
We at Empowerly, are super excited and happy for you to begin the next chapter of your life! The hard part of getting into college is done. Now, be sure to properly do your research to ensure you choose the best college for you. (And “research” does not mean just knowing that it’s ranked higher online.) Yes, choosing a college during the pandemic is going to require some creative solutions. We understand the pandemic hasn’t made things easier. So, if you’d like to hear from our expert counselors, book a free consult today!