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Commitment Quandaries

Posted 05/14/2024 by Merry Shukert

College application season is one of the most stressful times for high school students, and taking that next step can end up being even trickier. photo by Merry Shukert

Choosing the right fit for your post-high school education is not as easy as it may seem; here’s my experience.

There are countless factors to consider when deciding which college to attend, including cost of attendance, location, and population, and these can introduce copious amounts of stress into a high school senior’s life. Here’s the rundown of how I made the difficult decision of where I’m going to spend the next four years of my life, in addition to some tips for how you can make this decision easier on yourself. After all, I know better than anyone that AP exams and end of year activities are stressful enough.

First off, the fear of missing out on what could be is one reason that many college students initially regret their decision, myself included. Getting accepted to all but two colleges I had applied to seemed amazing at the time, but it ended up being less ideal when it came time to actually have to decide on just one. From safety schools in Colorado, to match schools in the Carolinas, and reach schools out in Florida, I had quite the interesting spread of options. I made multiple spreadsheets and lists of pros and cons to try and narrow down my decisions, but the real help came when I actually went to tour the schools. On a spring break trip to Florida, I got to tour Eckerd College, University of South Florida (USF), University of Central Florida (UCF), and Florida State University (FSU) as my family and I drove through the state. Being able to go in person was definitely helpful, as I got to see what the campus and surrounding areas actually looked like, rather than just seeing them in pictures online. 

After my family made up their mind about moving to Florida after my graduation (where my brother and grandma live), they explained that they would prefer if I went to college in Florida as well so we could get in-state tuition for a few years and I would be a bit closer to them. That helped narrow down my selection to four schools, plus San Diego State University (SDSU), which is, of course, all the way across the country from my family. SDSU was on my list almost solely because the city and campus are gorgeous.

After eliminating FSU, UCF, and Eckerd from the running because I either didn’t love the school size, campus, or its surrounding city, I was left with only two options which were across the country from each other. As the dreaded May 1st deadline quickly approached, I felt pressured to make a decision, and ended up picking the school that would be better for my family. San Diego State University, which I had absolutely fallen in love with while touring, would end up being too expensive and too far from my family and dogs. So, for the sake of my family, I chose to attend the University of South Florida, a place where I knew I would still be happy, even if it wasn’t San Diego. I would still have the beach less than 30 minutes away, be in a big city, and be close to my family and pets, whom I don’t think I could go very long without.

In order for you to have a smoother, less stressful college decision process, here are some tips to help you narrow down your options:

  • Make a spreadsheet: This will help you compare your options side by side, and allow you to consider various aspects, such as tuition or how pretty the campus is. 
  • Consider the cost: Take into account what your tuition might look like at each of the schools, and be sure to weigh in scholarships, grants, and other financial aid offers so you will know just how much debt you’ll be in after your undergraduate  years.
  • Consider location: Depending on your own preferences and whether you want to be far from your family or not, this will definitely play a big role in where you end up attending. The benefits of independence may or may not trump the comfort of being close to loved ones, so you will definitely want to take this into account.
  • Campus amenities: Every college campus is different, and some have aesthetics and features that others don’t. If the attractiveness of the campus is important to you, you may want to take this into account, like I did.
  • Long term implications: While any form of education after high school will be beneficial, some institutions can be better for what you want to do than others. Consider your career goals and future opportunities, so that you can choose a college based on what you want to pursue.

Even once the grueling process of picking out a college is finally done, your work won’t be over just yet. Colleges require you to apply to housing, register for and attend orientation, and select a meal plan before you even start at the school, and these are just a few of the numerous requirements. Once your checklist is finally all checked off, however, you can sit back, relax, and count the days until the brand new beginning to your exciting new life.