Making the Big Decision

Believe it or not, admission decision season is finally upon us. It’s time to rip/click open your admission decisions and figure out where you will be spending the next four years of your life. This will be a time of great excitement (and maybe some heartbreak), but it is just the beginning of the amazing journey you will soon embark on. That being said, you are likely to have some major decisions to make this coming month, so we at the USC Admission Office want to provide some factors that you might want to consider as you determine which school is the right fit for you and your academic, social, and professional aspirations! Good luck everyone!

Financial Package/Cost
Around the time you receive your admission decision, you will also find out about any scholarships you were offered or the type of financial aid package the school has prepared for you. This information is very important for you to consider, along with your family, to determine if you have the resources you need to attend a particular school. It is never too early to sit down with your family and have an honest discussion about finances and what you can realistically afford to pay and/or borrow to cover all of your educational expenses. If there have been changes to your family’s financial situation since submitting the FAFSA and CSS Profile (such as loss of home value, changes in employment or earnings, medical expenses, etc.), you may be able to appeal your initial financial aid package. The financial aid office can help you review a full list of exceptions and special circumstances and work with you to make sure your financial aid is truly reflective of your needs.

Location and Size
This one might sound obvious, but it’s important to think about what part of the country you want to live in and how big (or small) of a student body that you want to be a part of. Whether you are looking to get as far away from home as possible or you want the option of bringing your laundry basket home on the weekends, it is important to take the time now to determine how comfortable you feel with the distance you might have to travel to college. Additional factors you might want to consider include travel expenses, the ability to have a car on campus, the type of housing available for students, and so on. In terms of size, there will be different advantages of both large and small schools, so you should start to think about the type of environment that you learn and socialize best in and how you might try to navigate each type of campus.

Academics and Extracurriculars
Whenever I say this during high school visits it garners a lot of laughs, but make sure you apply to (and enroll) at a school that offers the major or majors you are interested in pursuing! If a school does not offer a major or at least classes in an area you think you may want to study, you will need to determine whether you are fine with foregoing this option in your education. Looking at lists of majors may also get you excited about the different areas of study your school offers or help inspire you to pursue something you did not even know existed when you applied. Also, pay attention to the options that are available to students on and off campus, including clubs, recreational sports, research opportunities, arts and entertainment, study abroad, and volunteer work. Finding out the policy for starting new clubs on campus could also help you think about this factor if you do not see a particular interest already represented at the school. These kinds of experiences may be just as influential as the classes you take and make your college experience more meaningful and lasting.

Campus Culture and Community
Since this school will be your “home away from home” for the next four years, it is helpful to get a sense of what students are like on campus and the types of cultural, religious, and other communities you might be able to tap into there. The transition to college can be trying for anyone, so you might want to see for yourself how inclusive the campus feels and the types of resources you can check in with to make the adjustment period more manageable. If you cannot make it to the campus itself, find other ways to learn about the student body, including looking through the school’s social media channels, reading the campus paper online, contacting student ambassadors, or checking the campus calendar to see the types of events held on campus. This factor will likely be the hardest one to quantify, but it might be one of the strongest indicators of your ability to sustain and succeed at your college of choice.

Professional Outcomes
It might seem a bit premature to already be thinking about post-graduation options (especially when you’re still waiting to graduate from high school!), but if you already have an idea of the professional path you want to take or you are just curious about what alumni tend to do after graduation, this is another factor you may want to consider. Career Centers on campus often track this type of information and provide vast resources on the types of internships, job fairs, and career listings that students can access both during and beyond their time on campus. Explore the types of supports schools offer for students preparing for graduate school or various career fields and see if there are minors or clubs on campus that could introduce you to professionals in the field and help you develop the skills or knowledge you need to stand out. Schools love to (humble) brag about the notable alumni that have graduated from their schools and LinkedIn allows you to see where people at various companies earned their degree.

What Does My Gut Tell Me?
At the end of the day, it really comes down to you and what you feel in your heart (or brain)! As cheesy as it may seem, you might already have a sense of the college that feel right for you, but you are unsure if you are ready to take the plunge. Whether it is the school you always dreamed of attending, or one you were fortunate to discover through the application process, you probably felt something meaningful when you stepped on campus, reached out to a current student, or navigated whatever other resources you had at your disposal to learn about the school. Do not be afraid to trust yourself and all of the work you put into determining which schools to apply to and know that there really is no wrong decision about where you will pursue your education.

We wish all of our applicants the best of luck during this exciting time!