6 of the Biggest Factors in Choosing the Right College

Choosing the right college can be the difference between having the time of your life or coasting through school just waiting until graduation. Many students chose a college based on one or two factors instead of considering a combination of all the factors.  It is important to really think about what is most important to you when choosing a college. Below is a list of our top 6 factors when choosing the right college.

Identify what you want

This should be the first factor you consider. Identifying what you want, or don’t want, can help you eliminate tons of schools right off the bat.  If you want to qualify for in-state tuition, you are going to only be looking at public universities in your state. If you are interested in going into chemical engineering, you are going to want to look at schools with a chemical engineering program. By identifying what you want as the first factor in choosing the right college you can really focus on the other five factors!

Some questions to ask yourself when choosing the right college:

  • What is most important to you?
    • Academics?
    • Sports?
    • College atmosphere?
  • Am I choosing a college for the right reasons?
    • Am I just going to this school for the football team?
    • Will I be successful after I graduate?

Location

Where do you want to study? Do you want to be close to home? Is a year-round warm climate non-negotiable? These are all questions you need to ask yourself when thinking about the location of your college. If you want to visit family or have family visit you, you will probably want to be closer to home. If you plan on playing on the golf team, you will not be attending the University of Maine! Keep in mind that attending a public university in your state will greatly reduce your cost of tuition, as those schools are able to offer in-state tuition.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I want to be close to home?
    • Is in-state tuition important to me?
  • If I moved far away, would I enjoy being away from people close to me?
    • Would I be able to get home for holidays and breaks?
  • What is the climate like?
    • Will I have to adjust to a new climate?
      • Will I even be able to adapt to a new climate?

Campus Setup

You may not be sure what kind of campus setup you will want when attending college. That’s perfectly normal! Many students don’t know until they get on a college campus and can compare multiple college campus’ to each other. There is a campus setup for everyone, whether that be the classic “college town”, where the school is the only thing in town and that is what draws people to the town, or an urban campus that is landlocked in a big city.  Make sure when walking around college campus’ you are paying attention to all the buildings (dorms, food halls, classrooms, and athletic facilities.) A great tool to check out the setup of a campus is college niche.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I want to be in a city or more rural campus?
  • Is city life important to me or am I perfectly content with living in a college town?
  • Do I enjoy the traditional feel of a school, like a Notre Dame, where everything is about tradition and history, or do I want to go to a “newer” school where the buildings and facilities are more modern?
  • Is green space important to me?
  • Is the green space well-kept and is the campus maintained well?

Size

Colleges come in a variety of sizes. You have to ask yourself if you want to attend a big school that enrolls 40,000+ like an Ohio State or if you want to go to a smaller school that only enrolls 3,000 students.  There are pros and cons to both a bigger school and a smaller school. Bigger schools will tend to have a bigger campus and more going on (just because there are more students on campus!) Smaller schools will tend to have a smaller campus and a more “close knit” community.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I want to go to a big school or a smaller school?
  • Would I be able to succeed in a class with 100+ kids? (General education classes at bigger schools.)
  • Are sports important to me? (Bigger schools tend to have more established sports programs vs. smaller schools.)
  • Do I want my professors to know my name? (Student to professor ratios tend to be better at smaller schools?)

These are a few sample questions you need to be asking yourself when considering the size of a school. Please keep in mind that all the above statements may not be true for every school.

Character

You may be asking, “What does the character of a college mean?” When we say the character of a college we are talking about many different components.

  • Public or private college?
  • What programs are they known for? Is it an engineering school or do they have a broad choice of majors?
  • Co-ed or same sex?
  • Do they associate with a certain religion?
  • Do they have a dry campus? (No drinking on campus, even if over the legal age)
  • Where does all the money go? Does it go into the sports programs or towards building a new student center?
  • Do students live on campus or do they commute to school?

Colleges offer so many characteristics, so don’t feel discouraged if the first couple of schools you look at don’t fit what you are looking for!

Money

The first thing you are going to look at is the “price tag” of the school.  This is the tuition of the school. This may or may not be what you will be paying. Schools have the ability to give out a bunch of money to incoming freshmen to encourage them to come to their school. Most people only think about athletic scholarships, but don’t forget about academic scholarships! Another way to knock some money off of your tuition is to apply for financial aid, even if you don’t think you will get any!

Like we talked about earlier, public universities, in your state, will offer in-state tuition which will greatly decrease your tuition costs. Private schools charge everyone the same tuition but not everyone pays the same amount. These schools have privately funded scholarships, whether that is for academics or for needs-based financial aid.

The biggest thing is to not discount a school by just looking at the price tag.  Do some research on the school, see if they give out a lot of academic money, have a work-study program, or if they have a good financial aid program.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is money a factor is making my college decision?
  • How much money am I/family comfortable in spending for my college education?
  • Am I comfortable in taking out student loans to pay for my education?
  • Will my degree pay for itself when I graduate?
  • Is there any way I can get more academic money?
    • Raise my ACT/SAT test scores?
    • Improve my GPA?

These are our top six factors when trying to choose the right college. We highly recommend that you consider all of these factors when making a decision. Some of these factors may be more important to others, for example, one student may not have to worry about money while for another student money may be the most important factor. It is just a matter of figuring out what is important to you and only you.

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