Most students will probably find that choosing a college can be a nightmare. When students enter high school, only a few already know what college they want to attend. It may be their lifelong dream to attend their parent’s alma mater, an Ivy League school, or a community college near their home.
There are many factors to be considered before choosing the right college. Listed below are some questions that may prove useful in guiding you to select a college.
What Type Of College Is Right For You?
A two-year associate degree from a community college may suffice for some students to reach their career goals. For those with two-year degrees and who do not go on to four-year colleges, there are plenty of career options.
Many of these opportunities are available in the healthcare field, computer science, engineering technology, fashion, and hospitality.
Other people use community colleges to prepare for four-year colleges, save money, or learn more about educational options if they are not sure of their career path.
Students whose grade point average or college entrance score is not on par with the expectations of a university often use their time at a community college to improve their grades, obtain more experience in a particular area, or prepare themselves to study courses at the college level.
A community college is often a good choice for students who do not meet the standards expected of a university. They use the time there to improve their grades, gain additional experience, or prepare themselves for college courses.
Additionally, many students opt to take core classes at community colleges and transfer the credits towards a bachelor’s degree at another school. Fortunately, many community college students take advantage of the lower cost per credit hour (compared to larger schools) to maximize their educational costs.
Furthermore, many students live at home during their community college years, saving them on boarding fees. You should make sure that your credits from the community college are transferable before diving into a course of study.
When you are not sure what you want to study, a community college may be the best choice for you.
The benefit of attending a community college is that you can take a variety of classes and find out exactly what your interests and talents are.
The purpose of vocational schools, or trade schools, is to teach students the skills necessary to perform a specific job, such as auto repair or plumbing. It is worth noting here that vocational schools are either private or non-profit institutions and can be found throughout the country.
You should take note that many vocational school programs, such as hair and beauty, may not be eligible for financial aid or funding from some student college savings programs.
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Four-Year Colleges and Universities
There are two basic types of colleges: public and private. State and local governments subsidize public institutions, which lowers tuition costs.
In private schools, tuition, grants, and endowments are the primary sources of funding. Private schools can be further classified by the special interests they serve.
Typically, four-year colleges and universities offer baccalaureate and graduate degrees, as well as a broader range of majors than two-year colleges.
What Academic Programs Does The School Offer?
Your choice of school is very important as well as the programs offered by the school. Identify the major you plan to declare. Are you planning to study business?
Then, consider schools with a stellar reputation for their business programs. Interested in a writing career? Check out schools with strong creativity and journalism programs.
It wouldn’t make sense to include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is internationally renowned for its science and technology programs, if you are undecided but leaning toward the liberal arts.
Even though school reputation is critical, you should not rely solely on it when making your decision. Instead, make sure that the institute’s program suits your objectives.
A small college can provide an excellent education just like a large state university. Discovering the right course for you is the most important factor.
What Are The Admission Requirements?
Admission requirements vary per school and it is also a key factor to look for. If the average SAT score at the school is 1,300, and you only have a 900, you might want to reconsider adding the school to your dream list. You should look for schools where you can meet the admission requirements.
Some schools will accept students with low college entrance scores — if they have a high GPA. Extracurricular activities, such as sports, can also affect acceptance to college.
Typically, the student is offered probationary admission, which means they will need to maintain a certain grade point average until they graduate from high school or take remedial courses during the summer.
Can You Afford It?
Affordability is one of the factors to consider when choosing a college or university. The tuition difference between public and private schools is huge.
In order to attract qualified students who may be wary of paying high tuition costs, many private schools offer higher amounts of financial aid than public schools do.
After exhausting every possible opportunity for financial assistance, grant, and scholarship, students often end up turning to student loans to finance the rest of their education.
It is important to ask yourself this question: Is attending this school the most cost-effective way for me to be successful in reaching my goals? If the answer to this question is yes, add it to your list now and worry about it later.
As much as you might want to get into top colleges, you should try to avoid getting into debt. Suppose you are set on a big 10 college, but a smaller, less prestigious, but equally qualified school offers you a sizable scholarship. Wouldn’t that make you reconsider?
Scholarships and admission to a smaller school will still help you obtain a quality education and reduce your total financial burden once you graduate.
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Where Do You Want To Study?
Choosing a college location is important for some students. Additionally, college is not only a time for studying a certain subject, but also for growth and development as a person.
Large cities, such as Los Angeles or Chicago, are popular with students who are attracted to the excitement and activities of the big city. Other students enjoy the tranquility and small-town charm that rural colleges often offer.
However, others see college as an opportunity to relocate to a long-admired location, such as the University of California at San Diego’s oceanside campus, New York University’s metropolitan campus or wherever their hearts may desire.
How Important is College And Class Size?
It is also important to take into account the size of the campus. The campuses of state universities are often large and sprawling. They also have locations located off-campus as well. Would you be comfortable walking to those locations?
Can you walk, ride your bike, or drive a distance to get to your class? It is even possible that large universities hold classes on another campus. Wouldn’t it be more convenient to have classes in just one or two buildings on the cozy, but the charming campus of a smaller college?
What About Your Fellow Students?
You should do some research on the college’s student demographics. What is the gender ratio? How many undergraduates vs. graduates? Does the school have student diversity?
Another important factor to consider is the college’s retention rate, or the percentage of students who return to the school after the first year. The higher the retention rate, the better the college is.
Whenever students leave or transfer from a college, you will want to know why. Learn what percentage of students earn a graduate degree or other professional degree after completing a four-year degree. Most colleges maintain online profiles for their students.
You can request the latest profile statistics from the school’s office of student affairs if they are not available online.
What Kind of Facilities Does The College Offer?
If you intend to study science or computer, you’ll want to check out the science and computer laboratories, theaters, and art studios on campus.
It’s a good idea to check out your options if you plan on living on campus. What are the distances between the dormitories and classroom buildings? What are my options for co-ed residence halls, or do I have the option of a women’s-only or men’s-only residence hall?
For students with disabilities, it is extremely important to keep in mind wheelchair accessibility in dorm rooms as well as public spaces, distances to classrooms, and elevator accessibility.
What About Campus Life?
The college experience should offer lots of extracurriculars, from intramural sports to political clubs. So you have to ask yourself, what do you care about?
Students who are athletic or like to exercise will value organized sports, a fitness center, or a ski club at their school. Fraternities and sororities are a great way for students at big colleges and universities to meet other students with the same interests or goals.
Perhaps religion is an important part of your life. As a result, you would want to learn about houses of worship, student religious groups.
Narrowing Your Choices?
You need to narrow down your list of dream colleges and universities to three or four—or more. Discover colleges on your list or discover ones you do not know about at college fairs in your area. If you are looking for college fairs in your area, ask your guidance counselor or look in your local newspaper for information about upcoming events.
Enter your personal information (such as your interests and GPA) and what college you are searching for (size, location, and programs). A list of all colleges within your search boundaries will appear. Start gathering information on each college – brochures, application forms, financial aid information, statistics collected from the Internet – and keep organized by creating separate documents or folders for each school.
You should also talk to your family about this. Take your parents’ opinions into account, especially if they’re going to pay for your schooling. If you have siblings, you should also ask them for their opinions. Maybe they attended a college on your list or know someone who did.
Despite all the research in the world, you will never be able to replace the experience of visiting the colleges you are interested in. Schedule a campus visit as soon as you can.
Visit colleges in your area during weekends or school holidays. You should book a campus tour online before visiting a college, or contact the school’s visitor coordinator. During campus tours, you will be given the opportunity to visit classrooms, residence halls, libraries, and student centers. You should take some time to explore the campus independently to gain a better understanding of the environment.
Speak with the admissions and financial aid counselors, as well as the department staff of your intended major. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Whenever possible, attend a class in order to learn how students and teachers interact.
Is there a grocery store and a restaurant nearby? Is there public transportation nearby? Would you be willing to be a part of this community for the next four to five years? Document each visit in your files.
Upon reviewing the files of each college, you can eliminate any schools that didn’t prove satisfactory after the visit. Complete an application for any schools that remained on your list.