The Challenging Choice

Tips on Comparing, Picking a College from a High School Senior


Photo by Morgan Kasel

After completing applications for multiple universities, choosing which college to go to can be difficult. However, there are plenty of resources and tools, such as a spreadsheet, that can make the decision easier.

Morgan Kasel, Assistant Editor

Between soccer practice, AP classes and college applications, finding the time to actually compare the colleges I am applying to has been difficult. However, I have discovered a few methods that will make the decision easier once the time comes, even without the option of visiting each college campus.

Create a Spreadsheet

I decided on applying to eight colleges before the end of December. While some are large, public institutions, others are more prestigious private universities. I do have my top three colleges, but in the end, I will most likely make a decision based on finances. Therefore, I have started putting together a spreadsheet of every college I have applied to, or will apply to, the scholarships they have offered me, the estimated cost of tuition after financial aid and the final cost once I have applied to every available scholarship and received financial aid. I highly recommend this method, especially for students who are applying to multiple colleges. Not only has a spreadsheet helped me keep my thoughts organized, but I can also compare all of the information for when the time comes to making a decision.

Research Dorm Options and Extracurricular Activities

If I had to choose between a great dorm room or a college that offers more flexibility in my major, academics always come first. However, after comparing the programs in each college, the next thing I look at is dorm rooms. Because many universities require students to stay on campus during their first and sometimes second year, a comfortable dorm room is important, at least for me. While some colleges provide a tour of their dorms online, there are also many videos on YouTube that offer a more in-depth tour from current and past university students. Similarly, as an athlete, I plan to continue staying active in college, so extracurricular activities, specifically sports, will also play an essential part in deciding on my school. Many colleges provide a list of all their student-led clubs and intramural sports on their website, however, some universities have a smaller list to choose from.

Research other Scholarships 

Many universities offer additional scholarships along with the merit-based awards, but these scholarships require separate applications, and some colleges may not even provide other scholarships for students. These other scholarships are sometimes paired with an acceptance into the university’s honors college or list certain requirements that students must meet in order to apply. Either way, the most efficient method of lowering the tuition cost is to apply to as many scholarships as possible and then compare the offers from each university. The extra essays can be stressful, which is why I recommend only applying to the scholarships offered by two or three colleges you are seriously considering.

Read Reviews on Niche

I discovered this site early this summer when I was still trying to decide exactly which colleges I wanted to apply to. After typing in a specific university name, Niche provides a report card of the college, including grades on dorm rooms, academics, professors, and even campus safety. You can also see the range of SAT and ACT scores of students who are admitted, the application deadline and the most popular majors. But my favorite aspect of the site is the category for reviews from actual university students. Here, you can read every wonderful, terrible and average review provided by current and previous students at the university. If you want to compare information from multiple colleges, Niche has a feature that allows you to select and compare details from multiple universities side by side.

While college applications are a stressful part of senior year, actually deciding on a college, especially for students who apply to more than two or three, can be just as stressful. Luckily, there are plenty of resources available to help make the perfect decision.