While it’s true that you do have some time to decide on a degree once you get to college, there are some things you should consider as you think about what you might want to major in. Entering your freshman year with the right degree isn’t essential, but it’s certainly helpful. You can graduate faster, which may save you some money in the long run!

Choosing a college degree is a big deal, and it’s one you can equate to a large purchase: like a house or a car. Your college education could affect the rest of your life, and there are some basic mistakes you can avoid making when declaring a major.

1. Don’t just follow the crowd

Sure, all your friends might have decided to go into nursing, but if math and science isn’t your strong suit, and you’re not entirely interested in taking care of people for the rest of your life, then you probably should rethink your choice. The same goes for choosing a college in general: just because your friends or your boyfriend are headed to the east coast for school doesn’t mean you should follow them—especially if that college doesn’t have the major you want or a solid program that can launch you into the career you are looking to get into.

The reality is that you’ll make new friends wherever you go, and if your old friendships are that important to you, you’ll do the work to keep them up long distance. Certain universities excel in certain subjects, so use discernment as you consider the college that’s the right fit for you and what you want to pursue. Friendships are certainly important to cultivate and maintain, but your degree will last forever.

2. Choose a school that specializes in your degree

There are a lot of great schools out there, and if your main goal is to graduate from college and land the career of your dreams, you’re going to want to pick a school that specializes in your major. Different schools excel at different things, and if your degree isn’t the only thing on your mind as you’re choosing your school, you’ll want to think through that too. Sometimes the best school isn’t always the most sensible option.

Perhaps you don’t mind going to college in the middle of a cornfield because that school has the program you’re after. Or maybe location is really important to you, so you might choose the third or fourth best program in a location you prefer. Whatever it is you value, it’s important to investigate several university programs and select the best fit for you.

3. Visit, visit, visit

Sure, you can read about all your potential college options online, but you really won’t get a feel for the campus, the professors, and the program you’re considering unless you get in the car and visit that school. You more than likely have a college on your list that has a big question mark next to it. The best way to clear that question mark up is to head over and visit that university.

Official statistics and information are certainly important but taking a tour of the dorms, classrooms, and other offerings at each school will help clear up a lot of confusion.

4. Are you simply going for sports? 

Getting recruited for a college’s sports team is a major consideration, and many students select their college based on this element. If you’re uber talented in athletics, and you hope to continue on in sports, even after you graduate, there’s no doubt about it—choose your school based on their athletics! Playing on a team can really provide a great level of knowledge, particularly for degrees in sports management, physical therapy, etc.

However, this way of choosing a college is not for most undergraduates, and it’s important to ask yourself some hard questions about your involvement in sports past graduation. While being a part of a team may have been a large part of your life, it’s a good idea to think critically about where you’ll be spending the vast majority of your time post-graduation. You may need to consider a slightly different option for college than you had originally planned, but this will greatly benefit you in the long run.