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5 things to know before committing to a college

High school seniors across the country make their final decisions to enroll in the college of their choice today. The Obama family has already announced that Malia Obama will follow the President’s footsteps and attend Harvard University, where Mr. Obama went to law school. But many colleges and universities nationwide extended their deadline since May 1 fell on a Sunday. Proximity to home, the school’s reputation or financial aid are all factors that can influence a senior’s choice.

For those still on the brink, Eric Greenberg of the Greenberg Educational Group, offers these tips every senior should know before choosing a college. Greenberg will join a host of other guests for a Twitter chat on college choices at 1 p.m. EDT, Thursday, May 5.

The discussion is part of NewsHour’s special Twitter chat series on higher education this month.

By Eric Greenberg

In recent years, a record number of students have been applying to colleges across the country. It is more critical than ever for students to find the right college that best suits their interests, abilities, and financial constraints. When deciding which colleges to attend, here are five things to consider:

Can you imagine yourself there?

Can you envision yourself living on that campus? Is the full array of academic options available given your intellectual and career interests? Are you comfortable with the spirit of the campus setting, from its size to its location? Hopefully by now seniors have sat in on classes, particularly those in which they may want to major. Talk to current students about the school and campus life. Ask the students if they would attend the same college again. Spend time in the student center or other high-traffic areas to help envision yourself as part of the community. Take the time to visit key areas of personal interest such as arts programs, musical programs, sports activities, school newspapers, clubs, etc. Does the college feel like a good “fit”?

What is the college’s program like in your field of interest? 

With college tuition and student loan debt spiraling out of control, it’s not surprising that many families are examining the return on investment, or ROI, of college education. What career services does the college provide? What are the job prospects graduating from a certain college with a certain degree? This can help determine which college to choose.

Is it affordable?

Make a great college “fit” as affordable as possible. Applying for financial aid is a very important part of the process for many people. Also, colleges often have applications for merit scholarships. Close attention to deadlines is very important. It is crucial to be aware that there can be a huge tuition difference among colleges that are private, in state and out of state.

It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.

For many students, starting at a less expensive college then transferring to a more expensive one can ease the overall financial burden for the student and family. It is more important where you graduate from than from where you start.

Fit matters more than ranking.

Of course a college’s ranking is important but don’t let that number become more important than the question of your comfort level of the college. Remember, four years is a long time so think carefully about priorities and assess them carefully.