Choosing the right college is important as it determines one’s future in many ways. For instance, it will determine one’s financial burdens of attaining education as well as earning/job prospects after graduation. This choice is even harder when you have been accepted to two very similar colleges. 

Based on a 2017 survey, about a third of the applicants are likely to get offer letters from multiple colleges. Back in 2009, I was accepted to two colleges, both of which were small liberal arts colleges that met my family’s financial needs.

Both colleges had similar endowments, enrollment statistics, and academic strengths. Even so, I still had to choose between the two colleges. 

Though daunting, you can still arrive at the right decision provided you make the right considerations. Throughout this guide, you will learn the important considerations you need to make while choosing a college whether you are an athlete or not. 

To choose between two colleges, one needs to consider such things as the cost and financial aid, job, and internship opportunities available. College location, academics, and class size are also important considerations. As an athlete, one should choose a college division that meets their needs. 

Read on to learn how to decide which college is right for you as well as additional considerations for athlete students. 

How to Decide Between two Similar Colleges 

If you have been accepted to two very similar colleges, flipping a coin is not the right way to go. The colleges appear to be similar in every way, but they certainly are not. It is advisable to opt for the college that best meets your financial needs and educational goals, among other things. 

In this regard, the following considerations will help you choose between two colleges: 

Affordability 

A coin misconception among many students is that attending a public college will not subject them to a considerable financial burden. According to the Wall Street Journal, major public universities address their losses by increasing tuition fees. Be sure to check how much it costs for you to attend each of the colleges.

In addition to tuition fees, you also need to factor in other aspects like food, boarding, transportation, and toiletries costs. It is advisable to choose a college that is affordable but also meets your educational needs.  With regards to affordability, there are two main scenarios you may face while choosing the right college, as illustrated below: 

When you Qualify for Financial Aid 

Money is a key decision factor as it has helped many students decide which college to attend. If you happen to qualify for financial aid, be sure to compare the financial aid packages on offer in each case.

You need to consider how much you will be required to pay each year against the number of loans you need to take to foot the cost. 

Again, you should check whether the college offers work-study placement opportunities, should you need them.

Assuming you had filled the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you should get a financial aid decision letter shortly after you have received the acceptance letter. If you do, pay close attention to the important details, including the loan amount, federal grants, and work-study assignments. 

Compare the total family contribution amount—the amount you need to pay out of pocket—for the two colleges. It is advisable to choose the institution that is offering to meet a larger percentage of the financial need. For instance, a college that offers to pay 100% of the cost is better suited than one that offers to pay a part of the cost, unless you can afford it. 

When You Do Not Qualify for Financial Aid 

If you do not qualify for financial aid, you will not have financial aid letters to compare. Even so, you still need to check the total cost for each college and whether you can afford it.

In such a case, you should first check whether you qualify for in-state tuition at a public college within your state. If not, you need to choose the college your family can afford to pay and remember to apply for financial aid the following year.

Academics and Class Size 

To begin with, ensure that the colleges are accredited—have been vetted and approved to meet basic academic requirements by the officially licensed organizations.  Most of the leading academic institutions readily avail this information on their websites, either on the Admissions or About page. 

Note: A university or college may be regionally or nationally accredited. Again, specific programs or departments within the college may have their accreditation.

Be sure to choose an accredited institution and program. This way, you can rest assured that your degree will be recognized by institutions of higher learning as well as employers. Next, you also need to check how engaged and personable the faculty members are. To do this, you need to attend a class at the college. 

If you prefer lecture-style classes, you should opt for the college that enrolls more students for your program. Before making your choice, research the two institutions and immerse yourself in the environment. This way, you can choose one that is best suited for your needs and avoid transferring in the future.

Job/Internship Opportunities 

Do the colleges offer internship opportunities for your course? If so, check which one offers a better internship program. Check whether there is a difference in off-campus or in on-campus job opportunities while a student is at the school. 

You also need to compare the prospects for the first job after college. In this regard, you should look at the statistics for students finding a job within the first six months after college for the two universities. To be on the safe side, it helps to choose a college that has a history of employers recruiting on campus. 

 Check which of the two colleges is more marketable. Who’ll a degree from college A look better on your resume than a degree from College B? Lastly, consider the general resources each of the colleges has to offer. These include a career center, career counseling, mock interviews, and resume reviews. 

College Location

A college is not only the place to will be learning but also the place you will be living for a considerable part of the coming years. Unless the two colleges are within the same neighborhood, location will be an important consideration while choosing between two universities. 

Compare the crime rate between the two college neighborhoods. If you will be living off-campus, check whether the housing options around the college are affordable. As a guide, you should opt for the option that is within a safe and walkable neighborhood and has affordable housing options. 

Other than that, the right campus location is a question of personal preference. For instance, would you prefer to attend a college in a mountainous environment or near the ocean? 

Educational Goals 

Which of the two colleges best meets your educational goals? Find out which of the colleges allows you to meet those goals faster. Some colleges are known to offer excellent classes that help students attain their degrees sooner than average classes would. 

Additionally, you should check whether the schools have everything you need to attain your educational goals or you will need to transfer at a later date. With regards to course requirements and options, it is advisable to choose the college that offers a well-rounded approach. 

To make this choice, you can find their course catalogs online and find out the options they are offering. Ascertain whether one of the schools is offering better course topics or even special content areas that you find interesting. 

Compare the Facilities 

Which of the colleges is better equipped to help you achieve your educational goals? In this regard, you need to compare the relevant departments at the two schools.

For instance, if you have decided to major in Sciences, compare the faculty, research opportunities as well as labs and equipment available at the two schools. 

How to Choose Between Two Colleges as an Athlete

What should an athlete student look for in a college? In addition to the above-discussed considerations, student-athletes have specific needs that their preferred colleges must address. If you would like to take part in college sports, here are some of the considerations you should make while choosing a college:

What to Look for in a College Sports Program

First, you need to ascertain where you stand athletically. As a college-bound student-athlete, you should consider registering with the NCAA Eligibility Center. You should then chose the right college depending on your desired level of involvement. 

Depending on the desired level of involvement, different colleges offer a variety of competitive levels, as illustrated below: 

Intramural Sports

This level is ideal for students who would like to participate in athletic sports for fun or to stay in shape. If this is your preferred level of engagement, choose a college that supports competitions against teams within the school. 

Opt for the college that offers reasonably competitive soccer or basketball games as well as an array of quasi-athletic events like broomball and Quidditch.

Club Sports

If you need more serious preparation and competitions than the intramural level has to offer, you should choose a college that supports club sports. This is a level where teams from one college compete against teams from another college. 

However, the sports are not necessarily sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). If not sanctioned, the level of commitment required will be lower than that required by NCAA sanctioned athletic teams. Athletes at this level are not offered any sports-related scholarships. 

Inter-collegiate Sports

This is what most people picture when they refer to college athletics. Teams at this level have a significant practice commitment and are the most competitive. Even so, inter-collegiate sports are different. 

They are classified into three main division levels—depending on the financial commitment by the college and athletic scholarships available. According to the NCAA, there are three college divisions, as explained below: 

Division I 

These are the colleges that conform to the Division I NCAA guidelines. These are often the larger colleges and universities that attract most of the highly competitive.

This level requires a high level of commitment and offers the best visibility with an assortment of scholarship opportunities available. Some of the institutions you will find under this category include The University of Alabama, Duke, and  USC. 

Division II 

As compared to Division I completions, DII level sports require a lower level of commitment and offer limited visibility. Division II colleges offer some athletic scholarships. DII scholarships are fewer in number and most of them offer a lower dollar amount as compared to D I athletic scholarships. 

Division II institutions are often the smaller colleges like the Westminster College and several branch institutions like the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Note: Eligibility for both Divisions I and II colleges is often based on achievement, academic, and course work. 

Division III

D III schools still offer athletic competition opportunities, but their competitions are not as competitive as D I and D II sports. Athletic opportunities in such schools can still be competitive, but no athletic scholarships are offered for the participating students. 

If you would rather enroll with a D III college, you should choose the one that offers need-based aid or merit-based awards. Division III institutions are usually small colleges like Meredith College and Grinnell College.  

Get Pertinent Information

Regardless of the decision level, your preferred school is at, you will need more information to make the right choice. First, visit the college team’s page on their website to learn the basics about the program and teams. 

Next, you need to call the relevant coaches to learn more about the programs on offer and find out whether you are a good fit. While touring the campus, visit the athletic facilities or even schedule an appointment with the coach and seek to understand their expectations. 

Final Verdict 

Choosing a college can be a daunting task, especially when choosing between two very similar institutions. To be on the safe side, choose a college that you can afford, is accredited, and meets your educational goals.

As you have learned throughout this guide, it is advisable to opt for a college that offers better internship opportunities and resources. If you are a talented athlete, you can also get the sponsorship and exposure you need by choosing a Division I or II college. 

Such a decision requires you to know much about each of the schools. You can get all the information you need from their websites and by touring each of the colleges.

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