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Choosing the Right College
It can be incredibly stressful trying to figure out how to choose the right college for you. How are you supposed to know? Obviously, the decision is an important one, and when we consider that the next four years of your life are hanging in the balance, we want to be thorough with our considerations.
There is, unfortunately, no definite formula for what makes a college the ideal fit for anyone. Honestly, there may be several colleges that are equally great, and that can make choosing the “right” college for you even more difficult (although, having several “right” options is a great problem to have).
The flip side of that is having some options that are not so great for you. Not every college is suited to every student and their specific situation. Not every school is the right one for you. That’s perfectly fine, but what we want to be able to do is figure out before we have committed to a school if it isn’t a good fit for us.
While there may be no set formula to find out the perfect fit, there are some good things to look at to help determine if we are choosing the right college.
Factors to Consider
As the people say, “money makes the world go ‘round.” While that saying is inherently flawed (life is more than money), in the case of choosing the right college, money most certainly plays an important role. To simplify this factor to the most basic level: if you can’t afford a college, don’t go there.
After you’ve applied to a school and been accepted, you’ll receive something called a financial aid package. This will tell you how much financial aid you are getting and how much your education will cost you yearly. It is important to understand that loans are not free money. You have to pay those back. Just because you won’t have to pay them while you are at school, you should still consider those as a part of the cost.
There is some debt to be expected when going to college, but choosing schools that keep that to a minimum is key. If a school is going to put you over $30,000 in debt after graduation, I would strongly reconsider. Colleges that are good financial fits will offer a decent amount of aid, accept scholarships that you may have received from external sources, and not leave you with overwhelming debt after all your hard work.
If you are not sure what you want to study, then this point will sort of breeze right by you. Some students go into college unsure of what they want to major in, and that’s fine, you have time to make up your mind. For those students who are bringing their very major-specific career dreams and aspirations with them, going to a college that offers the major you want is kind of a big deal.
Listen, you’re more than likely spending a good amount of money and a significant amount of time (4 years is a pretty big commitment) on your college education. Do not settle for a school that cannot offer you what you want to major in. There are plenty of colleges out there, finding one that has the major that you want, specific as it might be, is not going to be that difficult.
Don’t invest all that money and time into learning something that isn’t what you wanted. A college that is a good fit for you will be able to offer you the degree and major that you want and/or need for your future career goals. Don’t settle when it comes to desired major.
A big part of college life is the social setting. Yes, classes and your major are super important, but the social aspect is where you unwind, where you build a support system, and where you make lasting friendships—friendships that have a huge impact on the influences you allow in your life. The social setting that is present plays a big role in choosing the right college for you.
Admittedly, it can be hard to know what the social scene at a college is like before you actually start attending a school. The best way to get an idea of the social setting at a school is to do a campus visit. If you can do a visit where you get to stay in the dorms for a night or two, that is even better.
Campus visits allow you to see the school in-person and get a feel for the “vibe” of the students. You can see some of the activities that are popular on campus, you can sit in on some classes, talk to current students, eat in the cafeteria (if they have one), and so on. Campus visits are a great way to “sample” a school.
When you’re looking at a college’s social setting, try to picture yourself immersed in what’s presented to you. Can you see yourself hanging out with any of the students there? Can you see yourself enjoying any of the offered activities? Are there options for bible studies or spiritual growth that you are interested in? If the school can be a comfortable place for you socially, great! If not, good, now you know and can cross that one off the list.
Is That College part of God’s Plan?
How can we know if a college is part of God’s plan? Difficult question. It can be tough to know exactly where God is leading us, but we can take comfort in knowing that we are not strong enough to derail God’s plan. Even if the college that we pick is not perfect, God can use whatever path we take for His glory.
So, perhaps the question is less about which specific college is God’s plan, and more about which ones are maybe wrong choices for us. Again, that’s not to say that God can’t use whatever choice for His good. But perhaps not all colleges are for our good, spiritually speaking.
Some colleges will do better than others to help us grow spiritually, offer a safer environment for Christians, and teach us how to operate as Christians in a fallen world. We also need to be aware that we do not all grow in the same environments and while being in a place that challenges our beliefs may be good for some, others may not be ready for that or able to grow effectively with that sort of influence.
When it comes to choosing the right college for you spiritually, look for where you can get most involved and build a spiritual community around yourself. Most colleges, Christian or secular, have options for Christian students who want to get involved with ministry or Bible studies. At Christian colleges, it will most likely be easier, but that’s not to say you should rule out a secular school if that is where you feel led.
If you were able to do a campus visit, another good question to ask yourself is if you will be able to honor God in that environment? Will you be able to grow spiritually, encourage yourself and others, or will outside influences make that feel less like a priority? If you can, talk to current students and see what they have to say about their experience, especially if you know that they are Christian.
If you are looking into Christian schools, see if you can talk to professors or department heads and ask them about how they integrate the Bible into teaching, how they interpret Biblical teachings, and what they believe about the authority of scripture. This will give you a good idea of what sort of influence you will have in the classroom.
And, of course, pray about it. Ask God for guidance, clarity, and wisdom as you make this decision. He will not lead you astray, nor will he leave you once the decision is made. And no matter where you decide to go to college, know that he can use your decision for His good.
How to Choose the Right College for You
When it comes to how to choose the right college for you, there are several things to consider. No, we can’t give you a fool-proof formula for the perfect decision—because there most likely isn’t one. Like people, there is no perfect college. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t colleges that are a good fit for you.
Choosing the right college can be tough, but some good indicators for a good fit are if it is financially affordable, has the major you want, offers a social setting you can be comfortable in, and provides an environment that can encourage you and help you grow spiritually.
If you’re looking for information on Christian Colleges and Universities, or you want to enter one of our scholarship drawings, visit us here.