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10 STEPS FOR CHOOSING THE RIGHT COLLEGE

Choices are great, especially when it comes to music, movies and clothing. Sometimes, too many options can be overwhelming, especially when it concerns colleges. Here’s a checklist to help you find the best ones for you.

1. List your must-haves
Create a list of educational “must-haves.” Do you learn better in large lecture halls or small classes? If you’re aiming for the highest GPA, get a feeling for the academic environment you’ll be competing in.

2. Short-list top five
Consult college directories to get “stats”: majors offered, costs, financial aid, number of freshmen admitted. Directories are helpful at the start, to shortlist your “favorite five” (based on your must-haves, of course).

3. Get feedback
Whether they help with college costs or not, your parents’ or guardians’ emotional support is important. Patagonia might seem like the perfect location for a way-out-of-town university, but Mom and Dad may never want to visit. (On second thought…)

4. Assess school strength(s)
Physics? Philosophy? Poetry? Not all schools are created equal. Familiarize yourself with the college’s academic strengths to see if they align with your interests and career goals.

5. Location, location, location
Prefer skyscrapers to silos? You may appreciate the country, but if you love all that city life can offer, consider a school that’s in or near an urban area.

6. Culture check
Read the student newspaper for insights into campus culture. Are there more males or females, commuters or live-ins? Is there a suitcase crowd that goes home every weekend? What type of intramural sports and Greek life is on campus?

7. Bon voyage
Explore the school’s study-abroad programs: whether they’re month- or semester-long, if there’s financial aid and if you can transfer credits easily.

8. Post-grad connections
Does the school say, “So long, nice knowin’ ya,” upon graduation? Or, do they nurture your career with resume workshops, online job and alumni databases and intern or grad-school programs? Ask how many students get jobs six months after graduating and find out which companies recruit on campus.

9. Do the math
Compare in-state savings with out-of-state college costs. Are there teaching assistant or work-study programs? Calculate the entire cost of attending the school per credit hour. If you have to travel by car or train to get there, include daily gas and mileage wear and tear, plus any other commuting costs.

10. Sneak a preview
In addition to The Official Campus Tour, take an unofficial one. Talk to current students, scour bulletin boards, visit popular hangouts, sample the food and attend a lecture. Some schools let you meet with a professor and sleep over in a dorm. You can even take a virtual tour of some dorms at dormtours.net!

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