Undergraduate Programs

Decision Time: How to Pick the School That’s Right for You

You’ve gotten the acceptance letters. You’ve celebrated. And now, you’re trying to make that final decision. As time continues to fly by and May 1 gets closer and closer, many students feel the anxiety settle in around one single question: “Where will I go to college in the fall?”

It’s a pretty big decision — this is the place you’ll spend four years of your life — and there are many things you need to consider when it comes to deciding what university you’ll attend.

I remember making this decision, as well as how I ultimately decided to attend Clarkson. Now I’m going to share with you my top four suggestions for making the process easier for yourself.

In my opinion, the single most important thing you should do before deciding what school you want to attend is VISIT. Visit as many of the schools on your shortlist as you can. There is truly no better way to know what a school is like. I’m sure you’ve heard other people talk about getting “the feeling.” I’m here to confirm that “the feeling” is REAL. I can’t tell you how many of my friends have told me they were considering lots of schools, but when they went on a certain tour, they just knew. They could feel it. They could see themselves living there and being a part of that community.

That being said, during your visit, you should be observant of the students and staff at the university. Do you feel like you’d find “your people?” Would you feel comfortable around the people you see on campus? You’ll be spending the next four years of your life with these people, and they will end up becoming some of your best friends.

Another very important thing is seeing how the students perceive the professors. You’ll get a sense of it from your tour guide and from other students you chat with along the way. Having professors who know what they’re talking about and are readily available to help you is the key to succeeding in school. Also, consider the department you will be entering, ask questions about the curriculum and see how students perceive the department.

Some of the best insider info on a university might be hidden in the most obvious of places — the people around you! Universities like Clarkson have tens of thousands of alums and even more people who have come into contact with Clarkson alums, and the same goes for other universities. TheRiley Brennan on the top of a mountain over looking other mountain peaks chances of you knowing someone who has a connection to the universities you’re serious about are pretty high. So, use them as a resource! Alumni know the universities better than most, and they can give you endless anecdotes about their college times. Clarkson has over 42,000 alums, spread out over every state in the U.S. and in many countries across the globe. Hearing from those who have lived the Clarkson experience (or any college experience) could be very valuable, especially when it comes to career advice.

If you were someone who applied to and was accepted by many schools, narrowing down your options may be helpful. I recommend writing down your priorities — what is most important to you about your college experience? It’s probably a handful of things. Maybe it’s the majors and academic offerings, the hands-on opportunities, the study abroad options or the career services. Or maybe it’s the geographic setting (a big city? a small town?) or the ever-important financial aid. Whatever your priorities are, write them down and rank them from most to least important. You can even label some “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.”

Once you have your priorities mapped out, take a look at how each of the schools rates for each priority. There may be some schools that don’t align with the majority of your priorities. If living in a big city is a must-have on your priority list, Clarkson probably isn’t the place for you, and you can cross it off the list. But if one of your top priorities is getting hands-on work experience that will lead to great job opportunities after graduation, then keep Clarkson on your list!

Hopefully, this step helps you narrow your list down.

It seems kind of far off, but trust me — you’ll be graduating from college before you know it. In the end, if your goal is to start a great career after graduation, it’s something you should start thinking about NOW, along with your college choice. Ask yourself, do the schools you’ve been accepted to pride themselves on their incredible career placement statistics? Are they known for their connections with industries you’re interested in pursuing? Are their alumni successful in the fields you’re looking to pursue? Are their career services departments working with you from day one to help make your career goals a reality? If any of the schools you’re looking at aren’t bragging about any of these things, take them off the list. Your future self will thank you!


Clarkson University Pep Band standing around the 2017 D1 Women's Hockey National Championship Trophy
Here I am with my fellow Pep Band members and the DI Women’s Hockey 2017 National Championship Trophy (we won!)FINAL THOUGHTS

I hope my advice has been helpful for you as you make this big decision in your life. You’ve got to be comfortable with whatever methods you use to make your choice and feel confident in yourself, your instincts and your decision. The good news is that even if you move in, start your classes and then realize that the school you picked isn’t for you, there’s always the option to transfer. So, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get it right the first time. But, I hope you do, and I wish you the best of luck in choosing the school that’s perfect for you!

Pep Band Standing next to 2017 D1 Women's Hockey National Championship Trophy with the text 'Decision Time: How to pick the college that's right for you'

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  1. Well said Riley. Colleen loves Clarkson as well but college is a wonderful personal decision. One of your first big decisions you make in life. This blog helps narrow down the daunting task into bite sized steps.

  2. How far are you away from home? I am very interested but live far away. Do you know many students from out of State ( over 300 miles or more from home ) There are schools closer to me I could attend but love the Clarkson location!

    1. Hi Jeffrey, we have lots of students from out of state, from all over the U.S.! If you email us at social@clarkson.edu and let us know where you live, we can probably find a student who lives near you who you can chat with and get more info from!

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