Every student is different and needs a certain environment to thrive. Many college students choose a college solely on location, scholarship opportunities or where friends are going. It’s not to say that these factors aren’t important, but there are many other qualities one has to consider when choosing the right college or university. Before deciding on a college, consider the factors below.
Small vs Large
Some students thrive at large college or university, while others feel happier at a smaller college. While larger colleges may have higher profiles due to sports teams, there are great small colleges across the country. Whether you want to stay close to your hometown or gain more independence, there’s sure to be a small, mid-size or large college that appeals to you. Be sure to tour colleges of different sizes to get a feel for what will best meet your needs.
Every college has different social environment. Some college social scenes center around Greek life or sports, while others may have a more diverse set of social circles. Figuring out a college social environment requires not only a campus tour, but talking with current and former students about how to make friends. Introverts may find that small colleges with a variety of specialized clubs and organizations are a good fit. On the other hand, extraverts will likely enjoy campuses with tons of students, big parties, tailgating and larger campus organizations.
Extracurriculars matter, so research campus organizations, sports and clubs to see what suits your interests. Being involved in extracurricular activities helps build your skills and make connections. It’s important to have a focus outside of the classroom. Make a point to choose at least two organizations or teams to join. Even better, aim for leadership roles in these organizations.
Career Opportunities/Majors Offered
If you know what you want to do, choosing a college that has a great program in your chosen field will be important. If you’re undecided, a college that offers a wide variety of majors will be best. You’ll also want to talk to advisors and other students about career opportunities such as internships that will help graduates secure employment.
Faculty and Staff
A supportive, passionate and involved faculty makes a big difference in a student’s college experience. Some colleges and universities have better faculty and staff than others. Read online reviews of instructors, talk to current students and look for college reviews. When touring a campus, see if you can sit in on classes and meet with advisors in your desired field. A great teacher can change the trajectory of your career.
Reputation makes a difference both while in college and afterwards. You don’t need to attend an Ivy League school to get good job offers, but the university you attend matters when it comes to your career. The Princeton Review is a good place to find college rankings. However, you should look beyond overall rankings and find rankings in your chosen field of study. Find out how where graduates work by searching on LinkedIn and seeking information from alumni networks.
One obvious factor to consider when looking at colleges is affordability. An expensive college isn’t necessarily better than a less costly one, so don’t worry about choosing an affordable option. Also, you should apply to scholarships at the institutions that interest you. And there are plenty of scholarships that aren’t linked to a specific college. Check out Scholarships.com to find scholarships that will help fund your education. Another important resources is StudentAid.gov. Consider community colleges for your introductory level courses to help save a bit. Just check to make sure courses transfer to your chosen university.
Deciding on a college or university is important. Don’t make a choice based on just one factor. And don’t allow outside influences to pressure you into making the wrong choice. Take time, do your research and go with what meets your needs.