Choosing A School

Decision Day: How To Choose Your College

No Comments 01 April 2015

You’ve been spending countless hours on your college search and applications and all your work has paid off: you’ve got acceptance letters from multiple schools!  Now, you’re faced with a pretty big life decision about which is the right one. As Decision Day grows closer and closer, here’s a guide for picking a school that will be the best fit: where you’ll spend the next few years excelling academically, where you’ll be the most happy, and where you’ll find the school that makes the most financial sense for you.


Decide what aspects of a school are most important to you.  Will the financial aid package fit your budget?  Also consider campus culture, and things like athletics, Greek life, and other extracurriculars you may want to participate in. Do you want a big school or a small school? Do you want to stay close to home or do you want to head elsewhere?  Once you’ve figured how important the answers to these questions are, you’ll be able to better compare schools.

Compare Financial Aid Packages

For many students, financial aid is a big determiner in which school they’ll choose.  Take a close look at the packages that are offered from each school, and see what options are available–will you need to take out loans or do you plan to work while you attend college? Options like these, as well as work-study programs on campus, should be conversations you have with you family to see if a school is a financial fit.  If you log in to your College Greenlight account, you’ll be able to see other helpful tools like the EFC (Expected Family Contribution) and Net Price Calculator that are also useful when looking at this information.

Investigate Academics

Some students may already know what area of study they want to study (and some may have no idea–which is also okay!)  If you already know what you plan to major in, comparing academic programs between schools can help; depending on the school, each department may have different requirements per major.  Students considering a specific major should also check to make sure schools are offering it or should decide if taking a more generalized area of study will work for them. Last, check out the faculty in the department, their accolades, and feel free to reach out to them with any questions you still may have.

Consider Social & Environmental Fit

Don’t underestimate a campus’ culture in your decision–surrounding yourself in an environment you’re comfortable with and enjoy can help you excel academically as well.  Do you prefer a rural or an urban campus? Do you want a bustling, large campus that comes to a halt during athletics or a smaller, more liberal arts-oriented school?  If you were able to make a campus visit, now could be a great time to look over any notes about the campus you took, or, if it’s convenient, visit again.  Not able to make it? Conduct a Virtual Visit using College Greenlight to get an idea of what the campus is like.

Decide & Respond

Once you’ve taken a hard look at these factors and made your decision, make sure you take all the necessary steps to secure your place, including sending in your acceptance, any deposits, and other necessary items by the due date.  In addition to letting the school of your choice know you plan to accept, you should also let any schools you won’t be attending know you’ll be declining their acceptance.  This way, students who are waiting for your spot and any financial aid will get a more timely response and if you decide to transfer you’ll have kept up a good relationship with the school.


You’ve made a big decision–make sure to keep up with the College Greenlight Facebook and Twitter pages and let us know where you’ll be going next year!

Choosing A School, Greenlight to College Month

How Students Can Take Advantage of Campus Visits

1 Comment 05 February 2015

One of the many ways we’re rewarding students for doing work toward their college search during Greenlight to College Month is by encouraging them to take selfies at campus visits and enter into our raffles for $100 Amazon gift cards. While the selfies can win your students money (and make great Instagram posts) the real benefit comes from the experience of the campus visit.  Once your students have narrowed down their college lists, they can help make sure the school is as great an academic, financial and social fit as it seems on paper. Learning more about the campus layout, the surrounding community and interacting with the student body can offer unique insights for students.

Here’s how to help students get the most out of their visits:

Help Plan Ahead

Each school will have different offerings, so students should decide before they go what they are looking for in their campus visit.  Do they want to explore the campus independently with their parents, or do they want to attend a special event put on by the school?  Many campuses offer tours year-around, but checking in with the college’s admissions department.

After you’ve helped your student decide where and when she or he plans to visit, make sure they head out prepared. Help them develop a list of questions for faculty, staff, admissions and financial aid officers that are specific and can’t be found by simply searching the college’s website. Does the student know what area of study they’re interested in? Are they interested in clubs, sports, and/or multicultural organizations? What is the school’s student body like socially? What sort of career help is offered? Is this school a financial fit? These questions can serve as a guide when choosing what to see and who to talk to.

During the Visit

While on the tour or attending the open house, make sure your student is ready to get the answers to their questions by asking the appropriate faculty member or school official. Have them take notes and use our College Visit Worksheet (available in the “Tools” section of your College Greenlight counselor account) to keep their thoughts organized–visiting a campus can be overwhelming! Many schools will also offer opportunities to eat on campus, attend a class and keeping track of of all the different experiences will be helpful when making big decisions later.

After the official tour or other school-sponsored portion of the visit, encourage your student to take some time to explore on their own to get a “real feel” of the campus and community. Talking to current students about their experience at the college can be a fantastic asset–they’ll offer a different perspective than a tour guide or admissions counselor.  You’ll also be able to find students’ different cultural affinity groups, and we recommend visiting college’s multicultural office. Additionally, picking up a student newspaper and checking out bulletin boards can be another way students can learn more about issues and other goings on at the college.

Don’t forget to document the visit! Have students take a selfie to remember their trip (and to enter into our Greenlight to College Month raffles!)

Follow Up

After your students have completed their visits, help them compare colleges.  If they’ve filled out a College Visit Worksheet for each school, use this tool as a jumping off point for discussions around their decision as they can get a side-by-side comparison on specific aspects they noted.  Arrange follow up communication and encourage thank you letters to admissions counselors, faculty or staff who were helpful.


Have students that are unable to make it to a campus visit? Arrange a “virtual tour” by using information found on College Greenlight’s College Search section to get a feel for the way different schools might fit academically, socially and financially.  Our College Search Scavenger Hunt Worksheet is a fun way to keep track of the schools your students have “visited” and, like the campus selfies, their completion counts as an entry into the Greenlight to College Month raffles.


Choosing A School

Why should I consider community college?

No Comments 14 January 2015

Community-CollegesAttending a community college is one of the best alternatives to starting your college career at a traditional four-year school. Community colleges are much more affordable, and offer the same general education courses you would take anywhere else. In addition, most community colleges offer smaller class sizes and greater access to professors than larger schools, and have specialized resources for students who are not yet sure what their major will be or which four year school they want to attend. But the best part of attending a community college is it provides you with a second chance for admittance at a school you might have been denied acceptance from because of grades or test scores.

If you are thinking about community college versus a more traditional four-year school, it is still important that you take your choice seriously and intentionally. After all, everyone from the government to your parents agree: after high-school, you are officially an adult! If you are attending a community college with a clear plan and with specific goals, there is no reason you shouldn’t have a great experience.


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