Six Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best College for You
While it may not seem like it at first, choosing the best college or university is a major investment in both time and money. With the cost of college rising every year, it is important to pick a school that you feel will provide you with the best value and education for the next four years or more.
Geography, cost, reputation, and even the opinions of your parents can sway your final decision. With a little bit of guidance, coming to the best decision for your post-secondary education can be much easier than it seems.
One of the first decisions every student needs to make is where they want to go to college after high school. Some teachers encourage students to go as far away as they can to study, while some students prefer to stay closer to their friends and family.
Geography is critical to consider as it is a significant financial factor. Students studying in the same state they live will pay significantly less than out-of-state students. The cost difference between an in-state and out-of-state student can be a difference of $20,000 or more. With the cost of tuition increasing every year, the cost you paid when you first started college could be significantly more by the time you’re ready to graduate.
Furthermore, the climate of the school is another factor. Moving to a school where the winters are incredibly snowy when you come from a state where there is little to no snow can be a massive adjustment. The same is for schools where the climate is much warmer than you’re accustomed to. The weather should not be an additional stressor you worry about while attending school.
Life Outside of School
Though your studies should always take priority, the fun part of college is experiencing new things while you’re there. Therefore, it’s important to consider what life is like outside of the college or university you’re attending so you don’t feel out of place.
For students who enjoy having a good time, a school near an area with great night life culture or festive atmosphere will likely be a good fit. For someone who enjoys peace and quiet, a school located in a more rural area might be better suited for him or her.
But remember: If you intend to go a lot of places when you’re not in school consider your method of transportation. If you don’t have a bike or car, it might be best to choose a school with amenities in walking distance or one that offers public transportation.
Big School or Little School
A massive campus may be beautiful, but it can be a challenge to get around if you’re horrible with directions or are used to smaller settings.
For a high school student who is used to walking around a larger than average school, a large college campus may be an easy transition. However, for a student from a small, rural high school, he or she might find a massive school campus challenging. Additionally, a large campus may be spread out over several miles and require you to drive to get to a particular building; a significant challenge if you don’t have a vehicle.
Religious? Private? Co-Ed?
Religious and private schools might be more prestigious, but they also can come with a significant cost increase versus going to an in-state public college or university.
If you’re not particularly religious, a non-denominational school would make a better choice than a school that identifies with a specific faith.
Though it may be strange to think about in this day and age, there are also single sex schools as well as co-ed schools to consider. Some students might feel more comfortable being surrounded by people their own gender if their high school was all boys or all girls. While most students prefer the diversity that a co-ed school brings.
Costs and Scholarships
The cost of school should never discourage someone away from going to the school of their choice. However, tuition costs, fees, and cost of living expenses are definitely things you should consider when making your final decision. Remember: tuition is only the cost of attending the school. It does not factor other things like the cost of books, supplies, room and board, and lab fees.
However, some schools offer generous financial packages for students who excel academically, athletically, musically, or have had a significant positive impact in their community through volunteer work. A strong application can increase your chances of being awarded grants or scholarships which don’t need to be paid back when you finish school. The greatest reward would be a full ride, but don’t count on it happening, even if your application is stellar.
Choosing a school is difficult enough without outside forces trying to sway your decision. When deciding on a school, avoid these common pitfalls many future college students fall into when picking a school:
- Choosing the same school your parents graduated from and wanting to carry on a tradition
- Picking a school simply because your friends are going
- Following a boyfriend / girlfriend / best friend
- Party culture
- Rebelling against your parent’s choices
- Closing your mind to other potential options
- You like the city, state, or country
Picking a school based on these reasons might sound like a good idea at the time, but it’s an expensive mistake to make if you decide you’re not happy with your decision.
The Most Important Tip
Probably the most important thing to do when deciding where to go to college is visiting the few that you are considering a few times and getting a feel for the atmosphere. Walk around the campus, talk to people, visit the local places all the students like to go, and especially visit at night to take part in the evening night life if that’s important to you.
Make sure you’ve considered all the important variables when you pick your college or university. While you may change your major a few times while you’re there, it helps to be at a school which allows you some flexibility. While it is important to receive suggestions and tips, you will be the one going to school and the final decision should be yours.