Choosing the Right College for You
Choosing the right college is one of the most important decisions you will make. For many, it’s like finding the love of their life. The more you learn, the more you know it’s “the one.” But what if the choice is not crystal clear? What if there are several schools that have caught your attention and you just aren’t sure how to decide where you want to spend the next few years of your life? What if you do not know what questions to ask during a campus visit to get the answers you need? Whether you are years or only months away from making this decision, it will be helpful to keep the following points in mind.
Are you drawn to the big city or are you more comfortable in a small town? Choosing a college in a larger, urban area will likely offer numerous restaurant and entertainment options not found in more rural areas. However, smaller towns may provide more of a sense of community, with potentially fewer distractions. Of course, you might find the best of both worlds attending a small campus within a larger city. Wherever you are considering, ask current students how they made friends on campus and what they do for fun. Also, keep in mind how far from home you will be. If you get homesick easily or plan to go home every other weekend, make sure your school is only a gas tank or an inexpensive plane ticket away.
Programs of study
Not all universities offer the same programs of study, so make sure the schools you are considering offer the major(s) that interest you. If you are not sure what specific area you want to study just yet, it might be helpful to visit different departments on the same campus to discover the strengths and opportunities available for each program and what courses are required for the various degrees offered. Also, pay attention to the school’s accreditation and any national recognition earned. You want to be confident you are entering a strong program that can provide you with the resources necessary to get the most out of your education. There is a big difference between merely reading principles out of a textbook and applying knowledge through experiential learning.
How well known is the school? Do others associate the school with successful, well-educated graduates? One way to answer these questions is to determine the availability of internships. If local businesses are willing to accept interns from the school, they must trust the quality of the program. Also, consider what companies alumni have joined. Always ask about the placement rate, so you will know the percentage of graduates finding employment post-graduation.
Consider whether your academic history—GPA and test scores—aligns with the criteria the university is seeking. Schools with competitive admissions have higher academic standards but offer a more elite student environment, likely leading to a stronger reputation and excellent networking possibilities.
Some students want to go to big schools and do not mind sitting in classes with 50+ other students. Others want to find small campuses, where class size is more similar to those they had in high school. If you want to interact with your professors and peers in a more personal environment, look at schools with smaller student-to-teacher ratios.