What you should consider when choosing a college
A systematic search for colleges that are the right academic and financial fit for the student and family, as well as a good personality/social fit for the student.
To find the right college fit for you, here are a couple of important aspects of a college or university to consider when making your selections.
1. Class Size
For the educational experience, a smaller class size is nearly always preferred. A lower student to teacher ratio generally means more one-on-one time with faculty and more personalized attention: always a plus to help you on the road to better learning. Private colleges and universities tend to have a reputation for smaller class size, while large state universities more commonly offer 200+ student lectures, particularly in your first and second year. The average class size at your school will also depend upon your chosen major, as some are less common. Class size may not be the most vital element, but you should definitely give it some thought.
For some students, personal factors such as the distance from friends and family limit the location of colleges to which they apply. Which option works for you depends on your specific needs. But don’t just consider proximity to family. Take a look at where the college or university is located geographically and within its city or town. Some private colleges are nestled away in areas far from major cities which limits activities but can make for a more centralized college experience. If you prefer an urban environment, you’ll never run out of things to do and places to go, but you may miss out on that more traditional “college” feel. Consider these factors and how they’ll impact your college experience.
Do you already know what you want to study? You are probably considering colleges and universities which offer great programs in your chosen field. Does the college you're considering offer classes and learning opportunities that interest you? You don't need to declare a college major until your junior year of college—but you're more likely to succeed if you're excited about and engaged by the options available to you. Consider your learning style: do you prefer informative lectures or lively discussions? Research and analysis or hands-on experience and practice? Writing papers or working in small groups? Look for the academic experience you'll need to feel challenged and engaged, and what support you'll need for success—peer tutoring, accessible professors, mentorship, and career services are just some of the options you might find on campus. Check out course and program descriptions, reviews of professors, and sit in on some classes if you're able to visit campus.
4. Living Options
Dorm life is a huge part of the college experience for most students. If visiting a college you’re considering, make sure to take a tour of the residence halls. You’ll be living in one of these for at least one or two of your college years, if not all. Clean and safe dorm environments are important to most students and their families. Perhaps specific living requirements are important to you, like substance-free dorms or single sex dorms. Be sure to investigate all your residence options carefully, to make sure you have the best chance at finding a pleasant living situation that meets your needs. Also, make sure to see if your chosen university guarantees housing for students. Some schools, mostly those in big cities, do not guarantee housing for upper classmen. You should discuss with your family if finding your own housing will be workable, financially and otherwise.
5. Financial Aid
The cost of college is one of the biggest concerns for student, parents. The financial aid is typically one of the most important factors students consider when deciding which college to attend. Finances are a personal matter and you’ll have to weigh the cost of each schools benefits versus its associated costs with your parents or other financial support systems. Upon admission to a university, carefully check your financial aid award letter to see what grants, scholarships, and loan options you have. Don’t forget to apply for outside scholarships. Don’t let money be a deterrent for receiving a college education. There are thousands of schools out there that are affordable and there are countless opportunities for securing the funds you need to attend any school.
6. Career Development
In addition to making sure the schools you’re considering offer the majors and classes that interest you, visit or contact the career development center at each. Find out how the school supports students in preparing for the professional world. Many institutions extend career support to alumni, too, which can be invaluable in the early post-collegiate years. As more and more students factoring post-graduate plans into their college decision process, college admission and recruitment officers are emphasizing career support and placement when pitching their schools to prospective applicants.
7. Clubs & Activities
College and university life is about academics, of course, but also about making lasting friendships and having meaningful experiences. Sports, academic societies and clubs can all round out the college experience and help make your full college years unforgettable. Your university should have a list of clubs and societies on their website, and often the contact information for the club officers is listed. Reach out to these students for more information on activities that interest you. This will help you see what kind of extra-curricular you may want to get involved in, and could help make your final decision that much easier.