Why I picked my college

The college decision process can involve weighing finances, career outcomes, academic interests, and first impressions.

But while finding the right fit is a difficult task, it's certainly not an impossible one.

U.S. News & World Report asked recent alumni and students how they made their college choice. We rounded up five moments students knew they found their right fit:

1: Academic freedom

During his first campus visit, Emmanuel Osunlana was impressed by Amherst College's academic variety. The college's open curriculum allows him to study philosophy, environmental students, religion, and computer science, he writes.

2: International presence

For Corina Fitzgerald, Lehigh University's international internship program presented an opportunity to pursue her interest in Asian studies, she explains. The university's international connections helped her land a fully funded internship at a nongovernment organization in Cambodia.

3: Hands-on experience

Santa Clara University provided Nathan Metzger the right balance of coursework and hands-on experience. Metzger applied the engineering concepts he was learning in class to the university's Tiny House Project.  

Like Metzger, Elyse Smith was drawn to Valparaiso University's emphasis on experiential learning. As a meteorology student, she took her studies out of the classroom to follow the school's storm chasing team to Colorado.

Why students decline their dream schools

4: Faculty engagement

Campus tours often play a large role in the college decision process.

But for Maria Jaramillo, it was her tour guide that helped her choose Trinity University. After receiving a tour of the science facilities from the head of the neuroscience department, she recognized the faculty's commitment to student success, she writes.

5: First-gen friendly

Like many first-gen students, Nathan Mathai faced paying for school out of his own pocket. But when Furman University offered him both financial security and the opportunity to explore his many interests, he jumped at the chance.

Similarly, Kureem Nugent had a broad range of academic interests, but not a particular major in mind. For Nugent, Hamilton College's emphasis on self-exploration both in and out of the classroom felt like the perfect fit (U.S. News & World Report, 9/28).

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