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How to decide where to go to college

Two smiling graduates of Portland State University


Choosing a college is a big decision. Follow these steps to help you decide.

Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to college. Now it’s time to make a decision about where you will attend.

Review your options

You applied to colleges you thought would be a good fit for you academically, socially, and financially. Now is the time to consider what is most important to you as you weigh your options. Which college best matches your current needs? Use our Making a Decision guide to help you consider all the variables.

If possible, visit the colleges

The best way to get to know a college is to spend time on campus and meet current students and faculty members. Many colleges offer special visit days for admitted students. If you aren’t able to visit in person, check out virtual tours or talk to a current or former student at the college.

Consider all the costs

The cost of college is more than just tuition. It also includes housing, transportation, and other costs. Review your financial aid offers and calculate what you will actually pay. Calculate your total cost for all of the years you will be in college as well as your estimated loan repayment.

Look at the data

Learn more about student success at your college at College Scorecard. Pay attention to the data on:

  • graduation rates
  • average salary 10 years after graduating
  • the percentage of students who are paying down their debt. This means they are not defaulting on their student loans.

Talk it through

Discuss your options with your parents, a teacher or counselor at your school, a trusted adult or even a friend or sibling.

Know there is no right answer

There are many colleges that might be a good fit for you. And your decisions might be different from what friends or family think. Know that if a college doesn’t end up being a good fit, there are options to transfer or change colleges.

Follow up

Once you have a made a decision about where you plan to attend college, you need to notify the college. You may also need to complete extra paperwork to accept your financial aid. You should also notify the colleges you will not attend.

Make a copy of our Google Docs template to compare financial aid offers and calculate what you will actually pay.

Make a copy of our Google Docs template to compare colleges before making a decision about where to go.