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One of the more difficult decisions you will make in life is deciding where to pursue your higher education. Deciding on a college or university is no easy task, especially when you are looking for one that fits your specific wants and needs, even if you don’t know what those are yet. While this may feel overwhelming at first, there are many great tips to help you cross that bridge into your future.

Make A List

A great place to start is by making a list of your top choices, and including a pro’s and con’s list for each school listed. While you’re at it, make yourself a list of must-have’s for your school of choice, ranking each of them by importance. This is an easy and effective way of eliminating any lacking schools by cross-referencing your two lists. Focus on what you want the outcome to be after you graduate, and consider ways your school choices can help you get there.

Ask Questions

It’s crucial during the school selection process to ask every single question that comes to mind. Pursuing a higher education is a huge financial commitment, so make sure you have all of your bases covered and a great understanding of how things work. Sometimes, this takes a couple of trips to the actual campus to better understand how communications work on campus.

Consider Financial Aid

One of the major dilemmas students seeking higher education face stems from the financial aspects. Yearly prices for colleges and universities stagger drastically, which ends up being a huge decision maker altogether for some people. There are many different free online tools that work to help estimate what your overall cost would be upon graduation, and can even help predict what your monthly payment will be once you begin paying off your loans. Find a school that is within your means so you can set yourself up for success.

Don’t Wait!

The best piece of advice I can offer to anyone who is thinking about applying to college is to act swiftly! Pay attention to your deadlines, make plans to meet them, and above all, do not procrastinate! Because of the scale of the decision at hand, many people try to put it off due to the anxieties that accompany it, but this can end up being extremely detrimental. The early bird gets the worm, and the acceptance letter.

Dr. Arnold Peter Weiss is the R. Scot Sellers Scholar of Hand Surgery; Chief of Hand Surgery; Vice Chairman & Professor, Brown University. He is the former Dean of Admissions at Brown University Medical School (2004-2012).