You’ve probably spent hours poring over various college websites. You’ve studied all the information available regarding college rankings, faculty-to-student ratios and even probably visited a campus or two. You think you have an idea of what you want in a college, but ultimately you’re not sure. Deciding what college to attend is a difficult decision to make and kudos to you for not taking it lightly. However, instead of feeling stressed out or anxious about the decision you’ll inevitably make, take a deep breath and read on below for a few things to consider when choosing a college that will ultimately be the right fit for your personal and academic goals.
Unfortunately, with the rise of college costs, some parents have to take out a second mortgage just to provide their children with a quality education. However, this does not have to be your parents’ reality. You can achieve affordable without having to sacrifice a quality education. In fact, there are rankings now that you can find online that show the best colleges available at affordable prices. Hence, if you can’t afford $60,000 a year for a top tier school, there may be other schools around that provide the same quality of education for a fraction of the price. You solely need to do your research. But remember: Affordability is just one factor; do not let it be THE factor in determining where you eventually attend college. Taking out a reasonable loan will not make or break you in the long run, as long as you choose a major and a college that will yield a return on your hard-earned investment.
Size of the School
Are you comfortable with the idea of being in a freshman class of more than 6,000 students or would you rather be one of 200 freshmen on campus? In the movies, you might see the typical university class depicted as an auditorium full of students, virtually on top of each other like sardines stuffed into a can. Not all college courses are like that. Even at larger universities, you might find that there are classes where you’re one of five students.
Nevertheless, you have to decide if a large university will fulfill your needs or if a smaller university is more your speed. There are pros and cons to each. A larger university may give you a range of majors, extracurricular activities and a diverse student body to interact with, but a smaller university might give you a more intimate learning environment where you can develop lasting relationships with professors and friends. Nonetheless, you can easily find a mix of the two by attending a university that isn’t too small or too big, but ultimately gives you the best of both worlds.
You might be so busy thinking about just getting into college that you forget that there’s life after college. When you speak with an admissions officer at your prospective university, ask about what other alums are doing. Ask for the graduation rate and ask what percentage of new graduates are employed after their first year out of school. And if you’re interested in pursuing a specialized career, such as law or medicine, it’s okay to enquire about what percentage of students apply and are accepted into law school or medical school. Undoubtedly, you can gauge a college’s success by the success of its students.
Although your major might change several times over the course of your academic career, you most likely have a strong preference for one subject over another. Be sure the college of your choice either offers that subject or at least gives you the ability to create your own major. For example, if you’re set on becoming an accountant, then you might want to choose a university that offers a program in accounting instead of a liberal arts college that only offers a major in economics.
Do you hate the cold? Do you abhor humidity? The weather might not seem like a big deal, but if you know that months of rain and snow don’t exactly turn you into the happiest person, it might be best to consider a college in a different part of the country. Likewise, if you would feel more comfortable being able to go home on weekends, consider finding a college close to home.
Yes, you’ll do your fair share of studying, but college is more than just academics, it’s also about the overall experience. College is the time to explore your interests or find new interests that you never knew you had. Yes it’s important to choose a college that is challenging academically, but don’t neglect to consider your social needs and recreational ambitions, as well.
Rankings do matter. No, your success after college does not depend on the college you go to. However, going to a prestigious university with an impressive reputation can make you a more competitive candidate in the eyes of future employers. That being said, rankings are just an overview of what a college has to offer. Use rankings along with other factors to make an informed decision.
Are you okay with the idea of living in a co-ed dorm? Do you prefer single-sex dorms or do you prefer to live off campus and be a commuter? Some perfectly good colleges make for a terrible commuter experience. Other colleges are known for their uproarious dorm parties. Choose your dorm life carefully because it’s what you’ll have to live with for at least 4 years.
When most students think of financial aid, they think of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). However, FAFSA is a great tool in determining your financial aid needs, but your school will actually put together your financial aid package. This package might include work study, grants, loans and/or scholarships. Before deciding on a college, compare what financial aid package is offered to you from each college. You might be surprised to find that the college that you previously thought was unaffordable quickly becomes affordable due to a generous aid package.
You don’t necessarily have to go to a college where everyone is like you, but it’s important that wherever you go, you’re able to fit in and ultimately be happy with your decision. It is not unusual for a person to attend a college that is affiliated with their religion or cultural background. Hence, they’ll meet others that share their beliefs and value systems. And if diversity is important to you, plenty of colleges boast a diverse student body that is sensitive to the needs and wishes of its students.