Updated: Dec 31, 2018
Your Senior year of high school is crazy year with lots of lasts - last school dance, last football games and last tests, but it's also the beginning of so many firsts, especially if you plan on going to college.
Choosing my college was really exciting, but it's also a massive decision for teenagers to make (nonetheless, one they should make on their own). It feels like a decision that literally carries the weight of your future. I've put this blog post together to help you consider some of the many factors that will affect this decision. I've also designed this template so that you can compare all of your options.
One of the largest factors in where you'll end up attending college is where you get accepted. I've grown up in South Africa, and although I considered a couple of options overseas, I ultimately decided to start my undergrad closer to home.
Studying in South Africa is slightly different to countries like the US - for starters, there are far fewer reputable universities to choose from. I decided to apply to 4 universities (although if you live overseas, in a country with many great universities, you may want to apply to many more). 2 of the schools were closer to home & the other 2 were in the cape (an 18 hour drive from where I've grown up). My final decision was ultimately swayed by a few factors:
Course options: unlike in the US, here you choose your major when you apply. It took me a while to figure out what I actually wanted to do, so I applied for different degrees at the different universities (some universities will let you apply for a first, second & third choice degree and others will let you apply for a first, second & third choice of faculty).
Location: the university that I have ended up choosing is located in a small town called Stellenbosch (which is a university town) in the Cape Winelands (lucky me!). Although it's far from home, it's in a safer area than some of the other schools that I applied to & the town has an amazing student atmosphere as well as tons of activities in the surrounding areas (it's always a good idea to imagine the life that you're going to have at university - this means thinking about your classes, but also some of the things that you're going to get up to in your free time).
Cost: this is the factor that ultimately lead to my decision to stay in South Africa for my undergrad degree - studying overseas as an international student is incredibly costly, not to mention the very high cost of living overseas (especially compared to what I'm used to). However, tuition & in-state / out-of-state rates are not the only cost factors that you should consider. Depending on the university, your choice of degree & background, scholarship / funding availability may vary greatly.
Student life: unfortunately, South Africa is prone to strikes & protests (which occur on a regular basis around the world), but become problematic when they result in violence or universities being temporarily shut down. Some universities are less affected by political action than others, & although this wasn't a major factor in my final decision, it was definitely a selling point.
It's impossible to cover all of the factors that will ultimately contribute to this massive decision in a short blog post, however, I hope that this will serve as a starting point. I imagine that I'll have a little more insight into whether or not I made the right decision when I start college in January 2019 - I'll be sure to keep everyone updated! In the mean time, I hope that this article & template will help you to sort through the many universities on your list...
(Look out for an article on college move-in day, complete with a packing list, coming soon!)