April 2, 2008 12:06 AM

John's Guide to Choosing a College!

So most college admission decisions are out already! Having problems deciding where to go for the next 4 years of your college life? or 5... or 6... but let's not hope for that :) . If you want to learn more of how I dealt with this same problem, the first part my story is found on my first blog "Introduction". Now I am going through some things you may want to consider before deciding for a school.

Personally when I was choosing between Cal Poly and UC Berkeley, I considered a lot of things because college is not just all about academic prestige. Choosing between schools can be really hard, but here are a few things you may check out and ask yourself:

Costs and Financial Package
Tuition, living expenses, books, personal stuff, and so on... all these things can add up between $15-18K for CSUs, $18-25K for UCs, or $30+K for private schools. If money is a big issue, then definitely look at the school's cost of attendance and make sure to apply for FAFSA if you haven't already. It is through FAFSA that a school can estimate how much you need to pay and create a financial aid package based on that. Personally I thought I had to pay more for UC Berkeley ($25k)--compared to Cal Poly ($18K or less)--but when the schools sent me their financial package I actually had to pay less to go to UCB. Lastly, whether money is an issue or not, do not forget to apply for scholarships! There are plenty of free money around and it is up to you to take the initiative to grab 'em.

Classes, Majors, and Programs
Is the school known for the major you applied for? Does it have good programs for it? Are there different varieties of classes to choose from? Again, surfing the net can give you some answers about what each school can offer. Definitely try to see which school provides programs that suits your interest.

Location and Campus Setting
Do you want to be close to your relatives? Tired of living in the same area and want to move somewhere far? Do you want an urban or rural environment? The best way to answer these questions is by visiting the campus! Most schools have programs like open houses, overnight stay program, or you can even visit a campus during a school day. Just make sure to look at the school's website and look for information and they might actually offer you a tour guide. Don't forget about Cal Day on April 12th 2008!

Extracurricular, Clubs, Greeks, and Whatever
School is not all about academic--at least for me--so it is important to find other activities besides studying. I'm sure any student can start his/her own club about anything (make sure it is legal though), so I have nothing much to discuss about this. It is still worth considering though if you have a specific activity/group you want to join in that is not available in other schools.

Sports and School Spirit
Love watching football and cheering with your fellow schoolmates? Or maybe you yourself is considering to join a team? Schools have varying levels of competitiveness and spirit and if you are a big sports fan--or player--this category is also worth checking out.

People and Diversity
Do you have friends or relatives going to the same school? Or maybe you are concerned that something just doesn't feel right? Again, visit the campus to get a "feeling" of how people are like.

Prestige and Job Resources
Worried that companies would not bother looking at your application because you went to some unknown college? And is not getting a college degree all about getting a job after? Well, that's not always the case. What employers want to see is how much a student has taken advantage of his/her resources, extracurricular activities especially involvement in organizations and volunteering, and how well a student did overall in school. University prestige can help, but you have to do well in school to make it worth mentioning--which also leads me to discuss about academic pressure. I somewhat notice that prestigious schools such as Stanford, Ivy League, UC Berkeley do have a lot of academic pressure.

Choosing where to go for college can be very stressful (took me 21 days to decide). My advice is to take your time to brainstorm what you think matters for college. AND definitely visit the campus when you can.

I hope this guide helps, thanks for reading and good luck!
Stay tuned for more of my college experiences and advices!


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