College catalogs image.

Like every major decision, choosing a college is all about deciding what you really want and learning about your options for getting it.

What do you want? Here are some questions to help you decide:

Do you want to live at home or go away?

If you want to go away, how far away? How often do you want to be able
to come home?

Big fish in small pond, or little fish in big pond?

Where will you feel most comfortable-small school (under 2,000 students),
middle sized school (2,000 to 15,000 students), or big schools
(more than 15,000 students)?

Are you sure about a major?

Or are you still undecided? If you're leaning toward a specific major, make sure the colleges you are considering offer that academic program. (Most schools offer popular majors in business and the liberal arts and sciences but colleges can vary widely in what else they offer.) If you're very sure of a major, you may want to look into schools with particularly strong departments in that field. But even if your current passion is writing, art or science, remember most students change their minds about a major several times before they graduate!

How much can you and your family afford to pay?

Although you shouldn't rule out a school just because of cost, it is an important factor to consider. How much can your family afford? Can you qualify for financial aid? Are you willing to take out loans? In calculating the cost of college, remember to include all costs-tuition and fees, room and board, books, personal expenses and travel home.

Can I meet the admission requirements?

Colleges vary widely in their admission requirements-from admitting only the highest-performing students to accepting everyone. Review college catalogs and websites to determine the requirements of the colleges you're considering. Your odds of success are highest if you choose schools whose students have academic records similar to yours. And in applying to schools, make sure you include a "back up" school-one that you are reasonably confident will admit you.

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