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Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Deciding Where to Go for College

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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Riverside chapter.

It’s college decision season for high school seniors! As a fourth-year undergrad student in my last quarter, I have had some time to reflect on my own college decision process. Although I am certain that most of my decisions worked out for the best, there is still so much I wish I knew at the time. Here are five things I would recommend keeping in mind if you are currently deciding where to go for university.  

1. It really is important to get to know the location of the campus.

Applying for college is stressful, and it can be difficult to pick where to apply when it is advised to send applications to four to eight schools. It’s fairly common for people to apply to many places without thinking much about where the colleges are geographically. A college might tick all the boxes, but you have to remember that you will be living (or commuting!) there for four years. You are committing to the surrounding area as well as the college campus itself. I wrongly assumed my time at UC Riverside would be strictly confined to the campus because of the inland location and the fact that I was commuting there. I ultimately realized that it was still necessary to explore other parts of the city, especially since Riverside is not a stereotypical “college town.”   

2. School stats are not that significant.

In high school, I remember there being a lot of talk about school statistics, like the acceptance rate or the national ranking. Once you actually start college, you quickly realize none of that matters and that it’s better to forge your own path. Deciding on a school because of what others think is bound to end poorly. Colleges offer more than these ever-fluctuating statistics, so base your decisions on what you truly want in a school. UC Riverside might not be the highest ranking UC school, but it offered a major I was interested in and was close to home, so I knew that it was the right school for me. 

3. Financial aid and student loans should be huge parts of college decision making.

I will admit that when it comes to financial aid and student loans, I went into college completely ignoring the reality of them. I figured that it would be a problem for me in the future, and now that I’m nearing the end of my college career, I definitely regret that. It would have been helpful for me in my senior year of high school to know about the different types of loans available and whether I genuinely needed them. Unfortunately, it’s too easy to accept everything that is offered to you without giving it a second thought. Rather than go into college blind to your finances, review the FAFSA website and check your financial aid packages before beginning your freshman year. 

4. Undergrad is only four years of your life. 

Just like high school, college goes by fast. It’s exciting to enter a new era, and plenty of important life events will happen that are worth cherishing. However, it doesn’t last forever, and it’s okay if it consists of less than thriving moments, too. Those instances will pass, and you will be grateful to move on to bigger and better things. The first half of my time in college consisted of me doing online classes and avoiding going to campus because I felt disconnected from being a student. At the moment, it felt like college was pointless. Nonetheless, I was able to develop a routine the more time I spent on campus, and it got a little bit better with each passing quarter.  

5. Commuting and living on or near campus are two very different experiences. 

After attending school via Zoom freshman year, I chose to commute forty minutes a few days a week without thinking about what that would mean for my personal experiences in college. Across colleges in the United States, about 85% of students commute, but that statistic does not differentiate those who simply live nearby their school from those who travel a further distance. Commuting can be isolating, and you do have to put in extra effort to go to campus-related activities. I wish I had recognized this when choosing where to go to school, even if I know I probably would have made the same choice. 

Picking a college can be daunting and there seems to be an infinite amount of information to consider. Above all the things I listed, the main thing to remember is that everything will work out the way it is supposed to. 

Alyssa Gordon

UC Riverside '24

Hi, I'm Alyssa! I'm a fourth-year Media and Cultural Studies major with an English minor. I love anything pop culture and baking related. When I'm not writing, I can be found reading or rewatching episodes of my favorite 2010's sitcoms.