How To Find The Best College For YouApril 4, 2019
Last Updated on September 6, 2022
Picking the right college for you is quite a task. There are so many to choose from! Plus, with the birth of digital experiences, vlogs, and just plain slick marketing materials, it can be a challenge to determine what matters when making such a big decision. It’s important throughout the college search process to remember the main goal which is getting an education. It can be easy to become distracted by the brand new apartments on campus and the conveniences that the college offers. Yes, it’s important to be comfortable while attending school, but it’s not worth losing out on education. How do you find the right college for you? Here are some things that you should take into consideration. Not every aspect will matter to you, but it’s nice to think about big-picture options.
The major that you’re interested in studying and how the college meets the major’s needs could be a huge deciding factor. For example, does the college have a good reputation, appropriate resources, and a notable department? Really take into consideration what the school’s reputation for the program. Is your major available and are there classes that will challenge and engage you? Is the reputation of the college’s program going to further your career upon graduating?
Most people know their preferred major or industry before starting, but it’s common for college students to change majors. Does the school have a few appealing options for you? Get in touch with an advisor or the head of the department of your choice and see how you can find out more. You are attending college to further your education and get a career, so if that program isn’t available that could be deal-breaker.
Location, Location, Location
Have you always wanted to live on the east coast, dreaming of the mountains, or would you prefer to stay closer to home? Being close by to your family and paying lower in-state tuition could be great options for you. A school in the city could be a better option since you’ll have the ability to take in everything that urban life has to offer. From expansive green grounds to bustling urban towers, there are so many different types of locations you could pick. Don’t rule anything out too soon. You might be surprised how friendly a university in the city can be, or how lively you’ll find a more rural campus.
When selecting a school it’s important that you consider the distance from your home. Many people often times will want to be available to go home on some weekends or for big events. What the cost is to go home? Can you take public transportation, can you have a car on campus your first year, can a friend or parent pick you up, if needed? A primary consideration for location is the cost. In-state-schools provide a much lower cost to attend than an out-of-state school. If you know you’ll need to borrow student loans for college it may be best to stay with an in-state-school. Paying to attend an out-of-state school will mean more money you’ll have to borrow and eventually pay back. Your decision on school location should be influenced by your comfortability level with being away from home and the cost associated with the location.
Tally Total Cost
Cost is a huge factor in selecting a college. Fees aren’t only limited to tuition but can be dependent on the school. One school may have lower tuition, but fees like room and board, off-campus housing, meal plans, or transportation. We touched on this previously but, if you opt for a school that’s farther from home, how much will you spend coming home to visit? If you really want to go far away from home you may need to factor in the cost of airfare to visit home. Plus, look into fees like a parking permit and departmental fees. It’s worth doing a little math to see what the total cost is before you get your heart set on one or another.
Finding Financial Aid
If you can qualify for financial aid and are being provided with financial aid from a college that should heavily impact your decision. Can you get more aid at one school vs. another? Are there more scholarship options available through one college over another? Does staying in-state offer enough benefits that you don’t want to leave? There’s nothing wrong with picking a school because it will offer you the most aid. Aid is especially important if you are borrowing money to attend college. Even if the school doesn’t check all of your other boxes for wants, the cost savings could help make it a front-runner. Make sure you check into scholarships and applications for aid before you make your decision.
Schools usually have a discernible culture that students or faculty can feel and describe. For instance, a school with a robust exchange student program might be more inclusive and have a culture that appreciates diverse perspectives. Another school might be steeped in tradition and fit better for someone with traditional values. Schools with bigger arts programs or specialties in STEM could have a culture all their own. You really can’t get a good depiction of the culture from marketing materials. Understanding a school’s culture is the kind of thing you can ask while visiting or inquire about online in places like forums or Reddit.
Sweet Student Life
You will be spending a lot of time on campus. Even if you are non-traditional or live off campus. You should take advantage of entertainment, attending special activities, and participating in one or more organizations. Maybe you want a certain Greek life experience—check into it! Ask around and see what the reputation of campus life is like. Look at upcoming events and see what types of organizations you can join. It can be difficult the first year to make friends and get connected into a social group. Well-supported campus life can make this big task a breeze and set you up for some awesome lifelong friendships and memorable experiences.
All About Amenities
Relatively little things can make a big difference—especially if you’re between a few schools or have close contenders. Think about recreation and facilities on campus, what their sports, athletics programs or teams are like. Does the school have a special connection to a family member or your culture? Small things like cafes that better serve your dietary needs or campus dining options that stand above the rest can weigh into your decision. Your decision should not be based solely on these relatively small things, but if you’re on the fence of two universities it could be what gives you the push needed.
It’s important to understand how you’ll be financing college before you start looking at the school. If you plan on financing college by taking out student loans, they can impact your future. Once you understand your finances, you’ll be able to prioritize what is most important to you and start there. Remember too that schools usually have lots of opportunities for you to visit and learn more. There are entire departments of people whose job it is to acquaint you with the campus and community. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. Go in person and get a feel for the school if you can. Don’t forget to connect with potential faculty for your preferred major. You’ll probably learn a lot about what life would be like as a student, which will help make your decision much easier.
Happy school hunting!