This is a guest post written by our friend, Heather Lomax, a contributing writer and media relations specialist for Hi Quality Tutorials. She regularly produces content for a variety of higher education blogs, discussing how to apply to college and survive while you’re there.

Where you choose to attend school is one of life’s biggest choices, serving as the first major step on the path to your career. Every university will have different connections programs, job opportunities. With this added pressure, it can be pretty overwhelming to narrow down your final list of potential colleges, but we’re here to help.

1. The Cost

The cost of higher education ranks as one of the top deciding factors for prospective students. In-state and out-of-state tuition can vary dramatically, and earning a scholarship to attend a certain school can make take a huge toll on your financial well-being once you graduate. If you earn a substantial scholarship or a full-ride to a university, then that school warrants your full consideration.

While a specific school might not be one of your top choices for various reasons, a full scholarship could bump it to the top of the list, especially if your parents can’t afford to contribute to your schooling. Knowing that you’ll graduate without a load of student loan debt will also ease much of the stress that comes with attending school.

2. Campus Size

Depending on where you’re from and what kind of experience you’re looking for, campus size and style is another significant thing to consider when making your choice. Some students are looking for a smaller, more intimate learning experience at a private liberal arts college, while many want the lifestyle and social opportunities that are provided by a much larger campus. Making on-campus visits to some of the more appealing options on your list can help you get a feel for your options, and eliminate some of the weaker choices on your list

3. Strength of Program

Many incoming freshmen have no idea what their intended major will be, and that’s okay! But for those who have at least a general idea of what they wish to study, checking into the strength of certain programs is a must. Different universities offer different specializations, and while a certain school might have a nice campus or a strong athletics program, if they have a bad reputation for your desired major, it’s a good idea to scratch that school of your list.

4. Distance from Home

It can be inconvenient to live far from home while in college, especially if you plan to visit your family often. But perhaps you want to go as far away as possible to foster your independence. Whatever your preference, consider how comfortable you are living out on your own and how often you would like to be able to visit home. Sometimes it’s a safe bet to stay within a few hours of home so you won’t have to deal with holiday traffic or long flights – even though it’s only a few times a year, the inconvenience will have you dreading the happiest times of year.

5. Pros and Cons

If the first four points don’t help, then it’s time to make a pros and cons list. Consider the top three or four universities that are remaining, and make a list of all the pros and cons that these choices offer. Take everything into consideration, from the cost of room and board, to the number of people you know are attending, to the mock classes that you took during your tour. Share the list with family and close friends, and with their guidance, you should come to the right conclusion.

Need a little bit of help narrowing down your list?

Download our College List Worksheet: