All articles

How to Decide on a College: Choosing a College You'll Love

a young woman sits on her bed looking at colleges on her laptop

The college search and application process can be overwhelming, but we're here to guide you through it with advice on choosing the perfect college. From researching and exploring the many different types of colleges out there to making a final acceptance decision, here is the expert insight you need to make an informed choice.   

Let's jump in now.

Reflect on what you want in a college

Before you begin your college search, take some time to consider the qualities that will make you happy and successful in college. As you think through them, make a list of what matters most to you. 

Take into account your preferences for an ideal college environment. Do you want a large university with a bustling campus and many activities? Or would you thrive at a smaller school? You should also, consider factors such as class size, student-to-faculty ratio, campus culture, and the overall vibe of the college. These things will all impact your experience. 

Then, think through the potential majors that interest you. Do you have a specific career in mind? You don't need to decide on a major now. But as you narrow it down, you'll want to look for colleges that offer strong programs in your desired field of study. 

Assess your financial situation

Talk to your family about your budget and financial aid options, including potential grants, scholarships, and student loans. In addition to the tuition of each college, factor in the cost of tuition, room and board, and other expenses.   

Remember that a higher price tag doesn't always mean a better education

Research and build a college list

Once you better understand your goals and preferences, it's time to start researching and creating a college list that aligns with your criteria.   

Here's how to go about it:

Use online resources

Use online resources like Appily to search for and filter colleges based on your specific criteria, such as a school's location, available majors, and size. You can also read important details on the college profiles, like reviews from current and former students, average financial aid awards, acceptance rate, and much more.

Attend college fairs & information sessions

College fairs and information sessions are great for learning more about different colleges and interacting with admission representatives. Attend these events to ask questions, gather brochures and materials, and get a feel for the college's atmosphere.

Talk to current students & alumni

If you know any current students or alumni of schools on your list, contact them to ask about their experience. They can provide valuable insights you can't find anywhere else. Ask them about their experiences, challenges, and successes to get an unbiased perspective.

Visit college campuses

You'll also want to visit the campuses of the colleges on your list. Start by seeing some virtual tours to get a vibe check. Then, if the school passes your virtual check, go tour the campus in person. Campus visits allow you to experience the atmosphere, facilities, and community firsthand.   

Once you're on campus, take a guided tour, attend an information session, and explore the surrounding area. You'll also want to evaluate campus facilities and resources. Look at libraries, dorms, technology centers, and fitness centers. 

Evaluate and compare colleges

Once you have gathered information about the colleges on your shortlist, it's time to compare them and make your application decisions.   

Consider the following factors as you do:

Academic reputation and programs

Think about each college's academic reputation and the specific programs you're interested in. Does the college offer a strong curriculum in your chosen field of study? Will that college help you prepare for your job postgraduation?

Student support services

Closely evaluate the student support services at each college. Look for resources like tutoring, academic advising, counseling, and health services. In a time where stress and mental health worries are common, a supportive and inclusive campus community can ensure your overall well-being and happiness. 

Financial aid and scholarships

Consider the financial aid options and scholarships available at each college. Look into the average financial aid package awarded to students and any specific scholarships or grants you may be eligible for. Remember to use a net price calculator to see an accurate picture of what you'll pay to attend each school on your list.

Campus culture

Consider how each college aligns with your goals, preferences, and values. Consider whether you can see yourself thriving in the campus environment and whether it feels like a good fit for you. You don't want to compromise in this area because a campus's culture can greatly impact your experience. 


Evaluate the financial picture for each college, taking into account tuition, fees, room and board, and other expenses. You don't want to carry student loan debt years after graduation, so try to keep only colleges on your list that align with your budget and financial goals.  

Apply to the schools still on your list

The application process will likely take you a couple of months to finalize. You'll start by gathering the essential parts of an application, including academic transcripts, standardized test scores, personal essays, and letters of recommendation. We have a resource full of college application tips from a Director of Admission, so click on that link to read them.  

You will also want to complete the Common App, which includes an essay. 

Accept an offer

Now, it's time to sit back and evaluate your acceptance letters.

Review acceptance letters & confirm your enrollment

Once you receive acceptance letters, carefully review the details and deadlines. If you receive multiple offers, compare financial aid packages and reflect on all points like location, academic programs, campus culture, and more. Make your final decision and submit your enrollment deposit by the deadline. Congratulations on choosing the perfect college for you! 

Prepare for your big transition

Once you have decided, start preparing for the transition to college. Complete any necessary paperwork, such as housing applications and course registrations. Attend orientation programs and connect with future classmates through social media groups. Take care of any logistical details, such as arranging transportation and packing for your new adventure.

Remember, this is just the beginning of an exciting journey. Embrace the opportunities, challenges, and growth that await you as you embark on your higher education experience. 

To start researching colleges, create your free Appily account. Just click the button below to get started. It's always free and easy. 

Create a free Appily account to find, finance, and attend the college that's right for you Get Started Now