Tips for Picking a College Without Freaking Out

Short lists, safety schools, campus visit after campus visit after campus visit, picking a college can feel like a never-ending process of fine-tuning and second-guessing. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Don’t get me wrong. Picking a college is a huge decision. You’ll invest the next four years of your life there. You’ll meet new friends, connect with a new community, and grow into the person God has made you to be. Oh, and you’ll go to class and get a degree and stuff. That’s important, too.

We know many students feel weighed down by the burden of this decision, so we wanted to put together a few tips that will help you pick a college without going freaking out.

Narrow Your Options by Knowing Your Priorities

One of the biggest factors that contribute to the anxiety of picking a college is that there are so many schools to choose from. In fact, there are over 5,000 colleges in the United States, and you’re supposed to pick just one. 

The pressure to choose the best option creates anxiety because you’re saying no to 4,999 other options. How do you know you’re making the right choice?

You can remove some of the anxiety by reminding yourself that you don’t actually want to go to every one of those 5,000 schools. Many don’t fit your desires at all, and you can start eliminating choices by knowing your priorities. 

Ask yourself questions about what you want from a college. Do you want to be close to home or move far away? Are sporting events important? What about academic rigor? 

Make a list about what’s most important to you, and be honest with yourself. Each time you consider a college see if it matches your priorities. If being close to home is really important, you don’t even have to look at schools that are states away. See what I mean? Now you have less to choose from, and that’s actually a good thing.

No college will be perfect, but as you begin to define your priorities, you’ll narrow your options and feel less overwhelmed by the limitless choices. 

Count the Cost

College comes with a big price tag which has created a student loan crisis in the US. Most people can’t ignore the price of tuition, books, and living expenses, and you have to count the cost to decide if you’re getting your money’s worth. A private school in the heart of a big city might sound awesome, but do the benefits outweigh the cost? 

This answer will change for each person depending on their expected return on investment.

This doesn’t mean that the cheapest option is the best. It just means you want to make sure that you get what you pay for. 

Students wanting to find a job will want to look at job placement rates on school websites. Others may prioritize academics and will want to find information about specific professors they want to study under. 

You will have to decide what returns you expect from your college experience and then decide if the cost is worth it. The cost of college doesn’t have to paralyze you, but considering the return you desire can help you decide how much you’re willing to invest. 

Embrace Rejection

You see the email. You’ve waited weeks. Your heart starts pounding. You breathe in. You open it.

“We regret to inform you…”

Heartbreak.

This never gets easier, but you can learn to embrace rejection. Any successful person will tell you that failure is a crucial part of growing as a person. It helps you learn from your mistakes and move forward. You can take another look at the admissions essay you submitted. See where you can improve and make those changes next time you send in an application. That’s growth in the face of disappointment. 

Rejection can also help expose our idols and draw us closer to God. You might see how your security and identity rested in what college you went to. Turning to prayer, lament, and repentance in these moments helps reorient ourselves towards God’s grace over our own success. 

Rejection never feels good, but learning to embrace it can help you move on and grow in the midst of your pain.

Remember that You’ll Get Through This

You’re making a huge decision, but you can also trust that God has a plan for you. Wherever you decide to go, as long as you invest in your relationship with Christ and surround yourself with other Christians, you’ll make it through college. 

Knowing your priorities, counting the cost, and embracing rejection can help you find what you really want from a college, but there’s no perfect answer out there. When you feel overwhelmed by your choices, rest in the fact that God will meet you wherever you are and you can find Christian communities anywhere. 

Are there other challenges you’ve encountered while picking a college? 

Are there things you’ve learned that would be helpful to others?

Leave your answers in the comments below!

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