There are many resources out there to help you choose a college. Should you look at rankings? Which rankings? Your neighbor said that their cousin is having the best time going to such-and-such school and you should think about applying there. Let’s not forget how that one college has the best football or quidditch team which means all the games are the best ever and you shouldn’t miss that in all of your college social life.
All that data can be overwhelming.
Wherever you are in the college planning process, you can stay on track by focusing on these 3 key factors in choosing a college:
Strength and Quality of Program
The allure of pretty college campuses can make you forget that the primary reason to go to college is to complete a degree in an academic field. Besides checking that the university has the major or majors you’re interested in, you’ll have to consider the strength and quality of the academic programs offered. So what makes for a robust academic program? Look for:
Rigorous coursework in preparation for graduate school and other professional programs
Availability of many faculty members in area(s) of interest to build future relationships and possible mentoring
Hands-on opportunities to develop professional experiences for job market
That impressive academic program on that pretty college campus is going to have a price tag. And you’ll have to consider that price tag over the course of 4 years. It’s important to break down what financial investment this college choice will be. In your research, you’ll need to know:
Return on Investment (ROI) on degree. To make the cost of attendance worth it at the college of your choice, you’ll have to take into account the average salary for graduates with the major you’ve chosen.
Scholarships and fellowships. There is free money at colleges and universities. Need-based and merit scholarships are the most typical types of free money. While there are college-specific scholarships and fellowships, you can search for private scholarships and put the money towards the school of choice.
Variety and availability of financial aid. Work-study, loans, and grants are common types of financial aid. Universities have specific criteria for who qualifies for these types of funding.
Rural, Suburban, Urban? In-state or out-of-state? Here or abroad? Besides these questions, you’ll need to consider other aspects related to location:
Time. You’ll need to envision living in this area for the entire 4 years and perhaps beyond.
On-campus life. Besides opportunities in academics, you’ll need to take into account offerings in social and mental well-being and physical safety.
Off-campus life. You won’t just be involved in what happens on campus. Take into consideration the surrounding environment for internships, employment, and community-building opportunities.
If your college search has led you down a deep rabbit role and you can’t remember why you started, return to these 3 key factors in choosing a college: strength and quality of program, financial concerns, and location. You may dislike a school’s color or fall in love with their merch or swag. But remind yourself of these pillars because they are what matters most in selecting a university.