A RealWorld Student writes…

I am having a difficult time choosing between two great colleges. I have been accepted at both, how do I choose?

Dear RealWorld Student:

Imagine driving alone down a long, dark road, and suddenly, you approach a crossroad sign. One of the signs is pointing east and the other west. You’re lost, without a road map, and there’s a smaller sign below the crossroad sign that reads, “There’s not another exit for 200 miles.”

As scary as that sounds, that’s kind of the situation that you’re in right now. Although the decision you’re about to make in choosing which college to attend can be life-changing, it isn’t life threatening. And that’s important to understand. Even if you choose wrong, it’s not impossible to make a U-turn (it’s just time consuming).

Therefore, here’s something to consider as you put your choices to the test. I faced a similar decision when I was in college (big school vs. small school and private vs. public), and I really believe my choice paid off (literally) for me. I hope you experience similar success.

First of all, before you pick a college, determine your passion. In other words, ask yourself, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” Of course, I’m being facetious, but I think you get my point. Think about it this way, if you never had to worry about money for as long as you live, what kind of work would you want to do professionally? In other words, what type of work gives you the most pleasure? What kind of work would allow you to use your talents, skills, and gifts to the fullest?

Now if you choose unemployment as your career option, your choice is quite simple, don’t go to college at all.

Secondly, what major(s) best fit your passion? For me, I loved speaking and writing — getting in front of a group of people and making a positive impression on them, inspiring them to live up to their potential. Therefore, either communication or education was the best major for me (not a perfect fit, but close enough). I chose communication as my major.

Thirdly, what colleges are considered to be in the top ten in relation to the major(s) you identified? Hopefully, the two colleges you are undecided on will fall into this category.

Fourth, schedule time to talk with the department chair of the major you’re considering for each college on your list (in your case, just those two). It’s always great to visit the campus before you commit to any college. Brochures (nor websites) don’t always show the full picture.

Finally, if for some reason, your top two are still running neck and neck, weigh the intangibles: How’s the social climate (ex. culturally diverse)? Do they offer clubs (not night clubs) or associations you might be interested in? How’s the customer service (i.e., administrators and staff)? How user friendly is the library? As a whole, how user friendly is the campus?

Of course, there’s more to choosing a college than what I listed here (i.e., tuition, location, classroom sizes, campus resources, physical climate, campus safety, faculty credibility, college accreditation, etc.), but I think (in my humble opinion) the most important thing to look for in a college is an institution that will offer you the best opportunity and resources to take you where you want to go in the future from where you are today. However, if you don’t know where you’re going (i.e., career path), trust me, no college (or any college) can take you there.

As always, live purposefully!

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