10 Tips for Choosing a College

Published May 14, 2013 |
10 Tips for Choosing a College
As graduation draws near, high school graduates are turning their sights to the next phase of their academic career. We provide some tips to help them choose the best college for now and for the future.
As high school seniors are busy making their choices about which college to attend, those coming behind them may be watching the process with interest. They know that they too will be facing that quandary in a few short months, even as they are amassing piles of information about various colleges and universities across the country. While choosing a college can seem like a daunting task, there are ways to narrow the choices and make the decision-making process a little easier. Check out these 10 tips for choosing the best college for you.
 
Consider What You Want
What is your primary reason for attending college? Are you all about the academics, or is the social aspect of college important as well? Do you relish moving away from home to experience college life independently, or would you prefer to live at home as you take your first year or two of classes? Consider how you picture your college life for the next two to four years, to determine which types of colleges will meet your expectations best.
 
Talk to Others
Talk to friends and family members that are in college or recently graduated, to learn more about their experiences with higher education. Find out what they like and didn’t like about various schools. A report at National Public Radio also recommends talking to those closest to you about what they see as your best college fit. You might discover that friends and family think you would do well on your own in a distant school, even though you are feeling some doubts about your ability to be independent.
 
Think about Social Needs
Some high school graduates are able to fit in socially no matter where they go to school next. Others enjoy greater security if they are situated closer to family and long-time friends. Some students want to experience a broad range of social opportunities, while others are focused on the academic part of college alone. It is important to evaluate your own personal social needs, to ensure you find an environment that will be a good fit for you.
 
Compare Size
A report at the Huffington Post states that size does indeed matter when choosing the best fit in a college. Some students are specifically looking for a large university in an urban setting, where cultural and academic opportunities abound. Others prefer a smaller campus where they can enjoy more personalized relationships with other students and their professors. Colleges run the gamut from very small schools the size of a high school to massive institutions comparable to a small city.
 
Look at the Stats
While statistics involving a school shouldn’t be the sole factor guiding your college decision, they do play a role in helping you select the right school for your needs. The National Center for Education Statistics features a tool known as the College Navigator on their website, which allows interested students and parents to compare important stats like graduation rates for a wide range of schools.
 
List Possible Majors
A second report at the Huffington Post emphasizes the importance of being able to imagine yourself at a particular institution for all four years of your education. This includes a proper exploration of the various majors the school currently has available. While few high school seniors decide on a major prior to college enrollment, choosing a school that offers degree programs in your general area of interest will help ensure you will be able to remain at the school once your major is chosen.
 
Ask Good Questions
U.S. News stresses the value in asking good questions before choosing a college or university. The publication advises students to choose questions involving the rigors of a school’s academic programs, the overall culture of the campus and support services available for students. It is best to ask rather specific questions in this area, such as how many hours students spend on studies each week to gauge academic rigor. More specific questions will reap more precise answers that make it easier to narrow down your choices.
 
Schedule an Overnight
Many schools offer prospective students the opportunity to spend a night on the campus, typically sleeping in one of the school dormitories. This experience provides a wealth of information about the overall environment of the school, from the overall campus culture to the happenings in the dormitory cafeterias. Overnights may also be accompanied by a variety of seminars or workshops designed to give incoming freshmen a full taste of college life.
 
Look at the Price Tag
Don’t be afraid to look at the price tag when narrowing your college choices. According to a report at the Columbus Dispatch, more students are using cost to choose a college than ever before. For some, this may mean beginning college at a less expensive two-year school with the intention of transferring for the second four years. For others, it could mean weighing the value of a specific degree at a certain institution, in terms of employment opportunities after.
 
Compare Financial Aid Packages
Along with comparing price tags comes a comparison of the financial aid packages offered by various schools. Some colleges may be more generous with their grant offerings, while other schools may provide a wider range of scholarship options. Never assume you will be paying full price for a school, based on the numerous financial aid choices available today.
 
The choice of college may be a difficult decision for many high schoolers. The good news is there are many factors that will help you set your sights on the best institution for you.

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