College Decision Day Deadline: May 1

By Dr. Gina La Monica

The college acceptance deadline of May 1 is rapidly approaching. Seniors are scrambling to visit colleges they were accepted to in addition to dissecting their financial aid awards. This is an exciting time but also stressful in selecting what college would be the best fit for one’s undergraduate education.

Hence, I have been fielding numerous inquiries on how to decide what college to select. The following are important factors that should play a role in making one of life’s most critical decisions – where to study for your undergraduate education.

Reviewing one’s financial aid award is of paramount importance because you should only attend a college you can afford. Do not get caught up in the popularity of a school if it’s going to end up becoming a fiscal nightmare for you and your family.

When I attended USC as a graduate student, I met students who were spending over $200,000 on their undergraduate education even though their living wage for their major could not justify this debt. Remember bad fiscal decisions will plague you for many years to come.

Secondly, review the college catalog and schedule of classes. Do the courses within your major interest you? Is this the field you want to study? Will the knowledge you obtain assist in securing a job or entry into graduate school?

Recently, a senior contacted me who wanted to study psychology in college. She got accepted to over 20 colleges with varying financial aid awards. In helping her with the decision-making process, I had her brainstorm and do some research on the different areas of psychology including programs that are practitioner-focused versus research-based (non-clinical path). These are two divergent paths with distinct courses of study.

Next, read the reviews online for each college on Niche and College Simply. What are the trends or common points students have communicated about the institution? For example, small college town, dorms are old, or no Greek life. The more you read about the college, the more you will know if it’s a good fit for what you are looking for as an undergraduate student.

Go to the College Scorecard website where you can review the outcome data of each university. Find out how many students transfer out, graduate on time, loan debt, etc. These are all critical details to consider. For instance, you do not want to attend a college where getting the classes you need to graduate will be difficult.

Lastly, visit the college campus. As soon as you set foot on the campus you will feel the climate and culture of the institution. Talk to the students. Do you fit into the “vibe” of the school?

Most recently, my daughters and I went on a college visit tour to the east coast. We walked the campuses to see what their facilities looked like, identified what services and special programs they had, met students, and tasted their school cuisines. From these experiences, my daughters knew quickly which colleges they preferred.

In the end, be thorough in your research of each college. Do not rush this process. Create a spreadsheet to compare the characteristics of each school. This will be one of the most significant decisions you will make if not the most costly.

Lastly, the college you graduate from determines your network of alumni, and therefore, career opportunities. Managers like hiring students from their alma mater. Investigate the college’s network of possibilities, and most importantly, the community’s perception of their graduates. You want to graduate from a college with an esteemed reputation that you will be proud of; this degree will define who you are and often influences what career opportunities are available to you.


Dr. Gina La Monica has a Doctorate in Education and has worked as a high school counselor, college administrator, and professor at many universities and colleges including the University of California, Los Angeles, California Lutheran University, California State University, Northridge, San Diego State University, etc. She was a tenured professor and an expert in career technical education and adult learning. She currently teaches at a local college and helps students of all ages from kindergarten to the university level with career exploration, college admissions, learning assessment, tutoring, and education plans. 

College and Career Advisement
Dr. Gina La Monica
(818) 359-0859


Written by Gina La Monica

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