Things to consider before choosing a college

You're almost done your senior year of high school, and you're ready to Elle Woods your way through college. The only problem're still going back and forth between your top two dream schools.

The enrollment deadline of May 1 (which most universities use!) is coming up quickly, so we've compiled some things to think about when making your Rory Gilmore-esque pros and cons list that will help you choose the college that's perf for you.

Proximity to stores and restaurants


If you're living at college and not going home for weeks at a time, you're def going to need to hit up a grocery store once or twice. Some schools are located in cities where you can easily walk to a pharmacy when a cold sneaks up on you, while others may require driving a few miles to find a shop that's open.

No matter where your school is, make sure to think about how you'll access necessities. Does the school have its own stores, or will you need to leave campus? Will you have your car with you to get around, or does your school have a shuttle with specific operating hours? Keep these questions in mind.

Be sure to also check out what kinds of restaurants are nearby. Eating in the dining halls might get old after a while, and you may find yourself wanting a change of scenery. How about hanging at a cute coffee shop to go over notes with a classmate, or getting a nice dinner with your S.O.?  Look at what options you'll have and take into consideration how you'll get to those places.

Meal plans and food choices


We've all heard the horror stories about dining hall food, but tbh, you're probably going to be relying on food from the caf during your first year when you're in a kitchenless dorm. So be sure to take a look at what kind of food is offered at each college you're considering.

Some schools provide a variety of options, with themed food nights and different menus each day, while others just stick to the basics, like pizza and sandwiches. Colleges also have different offerings for students with dietary restrictions, so be sure to check if your school will be able to provide nutritious meals for you.

Meal plans can be pretty expensive, too (we're talking thousands of dollars). Some colleges require students living on campus to have meal plans, so think about how often you plan to eat on campus before choosing one (more expensive = more meals per week).

Clubs and study abroad programs


Studying is def an important part of college, but it's not the *only* part. When looking at different colleges, see what kinds of clubs and organizations they offer.

They're a great way to make friends with like-minded people and take part in hobbies outside of your major. (No need for a Troy Bolton-like drama—you can major in theater and join an intramural basketball league on the weekends.)

Lots of schools offer clubs related to cultures and identities (like the Queer Student Union and Black Student Union), interests (count us in for crochet club!) and sports (rock climbing and swing dance—some schools truly have it all). Lots of larger schools also offer multiple sorority options, which can be great ways to make friends and have fun.

Make sure you check out study abroad options, too. Studying overseas may not be your top priority right now, but by junior year you may be itching to go learn art history in Italy or engineering in Denmark. If you have even a pinch of desire to study abroad during college, be sure to look over all of this info before deciding on a school.

Work-study options


After scholarships, student loans and savings have all been accounted for, you may find yourself needing a bit more money to cover all of your school expenses. This is where work-study programs come in.

Work-study allows you to work part-time jobs during the semester to help pay for your education. Different schools offer different jobs (tutor, receptionist, cashier, intramural referee, you name it), and larger schools on your list might have more openings.

These jobs can be a great way to get to know other students and gain professional experience, so if you have time in your schedule and need extra financial assistance, research the job opportunities at your top schools.


Accessibility is a biggie and should def be considered in your college search. This can mean a variety of things for different students.

For instance, you might be someone who requires a little extra time on quizzes or needs to step out of the classroom every once in a while to take a breather. Each college may be able to offer you different accommodations based on your needs, so check out your school's accessibility resources before making a final decision.

Some schools may also be more fit than others for students with disabilities. For example, a college may have ASL interpreters for hard-of-hearing and deaf students, ramps and automatic doors for wheelchair-users and notetakers for those who may be unable to write. If you are someone who may benefit from accommodations like these, be sure to ask about different schools' resources during your college search.

Support programs


Going hand-in-hand with accessiblity are the support programs that your school offers. Most colleges provide tutoring and counseling, but the specifics of each may differ with every school.

For example, one school might just have a writing center to help you with your essays, while another school has a writing center in addition to tutoring in calc, Spanish and chem. One school might also have a counseling center that provides referrals to other mental health resources, while another provides referrals, evaluations, individual counseling and group therapy.

Depending on what kind of help you need and how often you need it, you may find one school to be a better fit for you. Thinking over these Qs now can help alleviate school stress down the line—and free up more of your brain space to just enjoy being a college student!

Tag us in your college decision pics on IG @girlslifemag for a chance to be featured!

Want more college tips? Check out these articles:
🏫 Yes, it's OK to not know what you want your college major to be
🏫 Your guide to being a great college roommate
🏫 The dorm essentials you need for college

Slider image: @niasioux
Top image: @chloelukasiak


by Maggie Salter | 4/3/2024