Choosing the right college takes a lot of time and research. Finding the right combination of financing, location, and class selection is crucial to enjoying a positive college experience. Here are a few key factors to help you make the right decision.
Location, Location, Location
Location is one of the top factors in choosing the right college. Your personal and family preferences matter; is it better to get some distance between you and your family as you begin your adult life, or do you want them to be a short drive away? If you are looking to set out on a new adventure, the sky is the limit for you school selection. If you would like to stay closer to home to be close to family, friends or a place of employment, you likely have local options as well, but it does limit your selection.
The Size of the School
Colleges come in all different sizes. Knowing what type of learning experience you want can help you decide which size school will be best for you. If you prefer small class sizes with individualized attention from the teacher, you should probably aim for a small-sized school. If you are looking for plenty of clubs, activities and social experiences paired with larger class sizes, consider a bigger university. Keep in mind however, that attending a larger school means teaching assistants or adjuncts will probably teach your initial classes. Smaller liberal arts schools mean you will likely have professors teaching the classes – even for freshman classes.
Choosing a college should not solely depend on academics. While it is certainly one of the top factors, you will also want to enjoy the overall culture of the school. On campus events, clubs, volunteer opportunities, school spirit, and the focus of the administration make a huge difference in the culture. You may want to consider a school that aligns with your interests, making you feel more comfortable during your time on campus.
Sometimes it can be hard to determine things like college culture and on-campus activities before spending time living on campus. A good way to get a feel for things is to spend a day on campus during a semester. Check to see if the admissions department has any tours available for incoming students. They may also be able to introduce you to an older student in your field of study who can give insight into typical college life there. Walk around the student union, the dining hall, and the dorm buildings to get a feel for what is happening.
Scholarships and Financial Considerations
A big part of your decision has to do with the school’s cost. While you could take out loans to fund your education, you could also find a school that offers scholarships in your field or for various other things. Schools base scholarships on academic performance, as well as other talents like sports and music. Get an early jump on possible scholarships by talking with your high school guidance counselor.
Once you put all of these pieces together, you should easily arrive at a decision. It is important to balance the academic gains of the educational experience with social experiences. The process of choosing a college can be overwhelming, so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. There are a lot of great resources available for college students, which can simplify the decision process.