Graduation ceremony
A graduation ceremony. Photo via Pixabay

By Sofia Zambalis-Lowenstein

National Decision Day is May 1 and high school seniors everywhere are faced with making one of the biggest decisions of their lives: choosing the right-fit college.

It is important for students to choose a post-graduation plan that suits their specific personality and goals. With 5,300 college and university options available across the United States, making such an important decision isn’t easy.

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Acceptance letters are rolling in and the pressure is on for students and their families to commit. What’s best? Is it a four-year university or a two-year college program? There are also alternative selections. Some high school seniors consider other options such as joining the military, jumping into the workforce, or taking a gap year to travel. These are all pathways for students, and each hold individual value.

College is a large investment in one’s future. Like all investments, students need to understand why they’re making it, and then work hard to make the investment pay off. A majority of the students at SET High, The School for Entrepreneurship & Technology in Kearny Mesa, will attend college as a result of our rigorous college-prep coursework. From the moment students walk through our doors as freshmen and throughout their spring semester as seniors, we facilitate opportunities for students to unlock the fire within and we ask: “What are you most passionate about?”

Sofia Zambalis-Lowenstein
Sofia Zambalis-Lowenstein

Their answers fuel the decision as to what’s next after high school. For SET High student, Kehila Moreno, who earned a $58,000 scholarship to the University of San Francisco and gained admission to six of her top seven schools, there is much to consider on National Decision Day.

With May 1 just around the corner, how does one decide on the right post-secondary plan? We all know the tried and true steps to finding the right college, like visiting schools, researching via social media, and creating a list of questions to answer before making a choice. But here are some other unique ways to narrow the choices down even further:

  • Know Thyself: The words of the great philosopher Socrates ring true, especially when it comes to matching a student’s learning style to a school that fits their personality. Both data and emotion should guide their decision-making processes — data will guide you, your gut will give you the answer as to where you see yourself succeeding and maintaining the happiness level to thrive.
  • Stay Fluid: Look for colleges that allow double majors or opportunities to create a learning program. Those who enjoy melding disciplines should select a college that embraces the “self-preneur.” These students — educated in managing his or her own brand — will employ critical thinking and creative problem-solving to find their best-fit college choice. Flexibility is important because as students enter the workforce, many to careers and positions not known today, it is imperative to be as fluid as possible and be able to adapt to the one constant: change.
  • Prestige Isn’t Everything, But…: It does matter in some areas of study. All things being equal, reputation should absolutely be considered because a prestigious university can elevate your personal brand.
  • Join The Workforce: If a student decides to enter the workforce, look instead at pursuing a paid or unpaid internship in a field of interest that may lead to future opportunities.
  • Take Gap Years with a Purpose: Some students opt for taking a break after high school. Don’t lose momentum. Consider instead studying abroad, which gives the opportunity to travel and learn at the same time.
  • No Matter Your Plan, Find a Mentor: Understanding the give and take nature of internships and mentorships and learning to seek out partnerships in the community as part of expanding your brand is imperative to success. Every student everywhere ought to find a mentor for academic, career, and life-changing decisions.

This is the time for high school seniors and their families to make critical choices to shape their future. Be confident, follow your passions, and make a positive mark on the world as civic and global leaders.

Sofia Zambalis-Lowenstein is the English Department Chair at The School for Entrepreneurship & Technology and leads a College Writing course.