In High School Musical 3, Troy Bolton chooses UC Berkeley because it was 32.7 miles away from Gabriella and had theater and basketball. In Hannah Montana, Miley and Lily magically wind up as roommates at Stanford University. But life (unfortunately) isn’t a Disney Channel production, and picking a college can’t be solved with an impromptu musical number.
In reality, a lot more goes into choosing a college: pro-con charts, Excel spreadsheets and that famous feeling that you’re supposed to get when you visit your dream school. For those that are lucky enough to have that mystical feeling, their decision is easily made.
“I’ve known I wanted to go to Villanova since I was a little kid, and when I walked onto campus and saw all the people and beautiful buildings I knew it was the place I wanted to be,” said senior Celia Lanza.
But for the majority, it’s not so simple. “There’s been a lot of pressure the whole year to have a ‘gut feeling’ and find your ‘match,’” said senior Alyssa Milrod. “But no one ever addressed what to do if you simply don’t have a gut feeling.”
So, what factors go into choosing the right college when your instincts aren’t enough?
Let’s address the elephant in the room first: College is expensive. For senior Yan Leyzerovych, who wants to major in finance, Rutgers University’s Honors Program was the answer for him because it gave him the biggest return on investment. “I can stand out within the school while not breaking the bank,” he said.
Senior Greta Horn approached the financial aspect of college differently. Instead of opting for in-state tuition, she went for out-of-country tuition, choosing to attend McGill University in Canada.
As a Canadian citizen, Horn applied to schools in Canada, as they were much cheaper. “Tuition costs for regular private higher education institutions in the U.S. are excessively overpriced,” Horn said. “[Certain colleges] should not be regarded as something of lesser value than other schools just because they’re cheaper.”
Because of the large financial commitment of collegiate education, you have to love what you’re paying for. The atmosphere and community within a school are priceless when picking a college.
For senior Paige Radice, the athletic reputation of The Ohio State University solidified it as the best fit for her. “I always wanted a big football school dedicated to their program, but Ohio State also offers many club and intramural sports that will keep me active in college,” she said.
In addition to an athletic community, academic atmosphere is a key factor in setting some schools apart from others. Senior Mary McHugh, who will be attending Fairfield University, fell in love with the supportive environment within the nursing program.
At Fairfield, McHugh saw a community where professors and students work collaboratively to help each other succeed. “It did not seem like a place where they would try to have people fail to weed out the ‘weak’ students from the program,” she said.
And when all else fails? Look for the little things that will make college feel a bit more like home. CrossFit is a crucial part of senior Jackie Callahan’s life—so when she saw the CrossFit gym at University of Delaware, she knew this was the school for her. “It was this beautiful, big, open gym and it was exactly what I was looking for—and that’s basically why I chose Delaware,” she said.
Whatever your methods, be proud of your decision and embrace the next four years of your life. As Horn said, “The pursuit of higher education is always something you should be proud of and ultimately it always depends on what you make of it and that’s what will define you in the end.”