CONGRATULATIONS! We are proud to welcome you to the Class of 2021!
If you're reading this, then you're probably thinking back to the moment when you opened your college admission decisions and you saw the coveted word: "Congratulations." Your heart was likely already beating rapidly from being so nervous and your eyes bulged open the moment you realized you got into college and your life will likely never be the same again. Ahh good times.
Well, now comes the difficult part: choosing where to go. If you're like me and can barely decide what to eat for dinner or what outfit to wear to an event, then the struggle for you right now must be hella real. Choosing a school to spend the next four years is really tough. I waited until the day before the deadline to enroll (my indecisiveness is so bad!!) but this post will help you make a decision more quickly by fleshing out all the different things you need to consider before you accept any college's admission offer.
1. $FINANCIAL AID$
Let's just be honest here. College is expensive. Like unbearably expensive. Though I am a huge advocate for pursuing higher education...for the life of me I will never be able to validate nor explain the price tag of college. Yet here we are. When I had to decide, it all came down to the numbers. I knew my mom could not afford to contribute to my college education so when my financial aid letters came I immediately compared each school and considered what my parent contribution would be, my personal contribution, any loans, and grants (money you don't have to pay back, #bless). Graduating debt free from college was my goal, so I took financial aid very seriously and I applied to many scholarships.
2. DIVERSITY STATISTICS
I went to a predominately white high school. Most of my classmates did not look like me, so I was used to being the only "black girl" in most of my classes. However, when I was choosing a college, I didn't really consider the diversity numbers as much as I should have. Now that I've spent almost three years in college, I can definitely say that the black community has been my greatest support system. Through this community, I've found people who come from backgrounds I do and who are just like me in many aspects. College isn't easy, so you need to find support where you can. So not only should you check out what the communities for students of color are like, but also find out if there is support for first-generation college students, LBGTQ students, women, and any other affinity group you may identify with.
After crunching numbers, it came down to two schools: Duke and Princeton. At Duke, I was a selected for a full merit scholarship. At Princeton, I was provided a full ride as well. To help me decide, I looked at other factors, such as distance. I live in Maryland and I've grown up on the East Coast my entire life. I had never been to the south and like most people, the "unknown" worried me. I like to stick to what I know. However, college was going to be a completely new experience so I wasn't going to let fear of the unknown stop me from any new experiences. Nevertheless, I leaned more towards Princeton because of its proximity to home. I had family obligations, so being able to get on a train or bus last minute versus an expensive flight seemed like a better option. Fast-forward to today, and I'm thankful I chose New Jersey. I've had to go home last minute many times and being able to jump on that megabus or Amtrak train has been a lifesaver.
Before applying to college, I considered size. I didn't apply to schools that had a small student body population (~2000) and schools with much bigger populations (~12000 +) made me so nervous. I didn't want to be a big fish in a small pond, nor did I want to be a small fish in a big pond. Like Goldilocks, I needed to find my happy medium and (~6000) was perfect. I could stand out but also be a recluse if I wanted. Some of you may find yourself deciding between different size schools, so be sure to consider class sizes and really think about the type of person you are. Do you prefer smaller class sizes with about 15 students per class, or do you think you can thrive with 100 students in your class? You'll really have to do some deep soul searching here.
5. CAMPUS CULTURE
The culture of a campus is so so important and cannot be underestimated. Four years is a long time and you don't want to go somewhere with people that are *so* unlike you. Some colleges are very niche schools. You can read all the reviews on campuses on websites like colleges.niche.com and collegeboard.com, but nothing will compare to actually visiting the campus. You should check and see if the school is able to fly you out for their admitted days weekend, because here you can meet your *maybe* future classmates. You will also be able to get a taste for campus life both during the day and at night (ayeee). Personally, I liked Duke's environment a lot more than Princeton and I probably am a better fit as a Duke Devil (I guess we'll never know), so be unlike me and really consider campus culture in your decision so you don't end up junior year applying to study abroad/domestically because you need a break from you school .*whew* That's a conversation for another article.
You probably already have an idea of what you'll major in when you get to college. Okay, now scrap that idea because it's very likely you won't end up in that major (but you also might!!). The beauty of college is that you get to find what you're interested in and passionate about. I entered college wanting to major in Princeton's International Affairs school. Those dreams died so fast when I found out about the math and economics classes I had to take. I'm not a numbers person, I am all about the words. And after taking a serious L in my math class, that major was going to be a "no" from me. But beyond majors, also consider academic rigor and the typical workload students have. There are schools where the average class has 30 pages of reading, while others average about 150 pages per class (for non STEM classes of course but those p-sets are difficult, too). For schools with heavy academic rigor, and all your schools, look into what resources schools have for students for dealing with mental health, tutoring, affinity support groups, etc. Also be sure to speak with students about these resources and see what they really think. Students are going to be a lot more truthful than the actual institution.
In CONCLUSION, choosing where to go is not easy. There are many factors to consider, but you've come this far so I know you can do it! If you ever feel like you made the wrong choice, you can always apply to transfer elsewhere. And if you struggle with making decisions, remember that everything happens for reason. So you can't really make a wrong decision, right ??
For more tips and guidance, I wrote extensively about choosing the right college and *everything* you need to consider in #Admitted. You can buy a copy through the "Contact" page on KielahandWilglory.com . And if you're really really stuck, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for some additional advice.
xoxo & godspeed,