Factors to Consider When Choosing a College

One of the most important factors you’ll consider when choosing a college is the type of college that best fits your personality and personal interests. To learn more about college types please visit our Types of Colleges and Universities section. However, there are many other factors to consider in selecing a college.

Accreditation

If you want to earn a degree that’s going to have value in the job market, it’s important to make sure that the college or university you attend is accredited. Accreditation is a rigorous process that higher education institutions must go through in order to certify that their curriculum is up to par with regional and national standards. Never assume that a college is accredited, because not all are – even though they may represent themselves as extremely reputable. You’ll also want to find out if a college is regionally or nationally accredited. While both accreditations are valid, you’ll probably want to make sure that the college or university you attend is regionally accredited. You can find out if a college is accredited by looking on a college’s recruiting website, by reviewing their academic catalogs, or by speaking with an admissions officer.

Individual departments and academic programs may also be accredited. This type of accreditation ensures that a program itself meets additional quality standards and is recognized nationally. If you already know what type of major you want to pursue, then it would be wise to look into the accreditation of the respective department or program offering your major.

Academics

Another factor you’ll want to consider when selecting a college is the reputation of it’s academic department(s). Ask around, speak with alumni and potential employers in the industries where you’d like to work down the road. Make sure to find out about the curriculum and faculty in your intended major. Find out if the academic program offered by the college provides hands-on experience or internships in your field prior to graduation.

Another thing you may want to consider is college rankings, but keep in mind that criteria used to generate rankings differs from one reporting organization to another, and more importantly, may differ from your own. Most national college ranking organizations employ factors including endowments, alumni support, and reputation in their computation of rankings whereby favoring large, private colleges and universities. An accredited degree from a state university or smaller private university can be just as valuable as a degree from an Ivy League university or other prestigious college.

Another academic factor worth looking at is a school’s student-to-faculty ratio. The more students there are per faculty member the less personalized attention you’re likely to receive. Keep in mind that this ratio is going to differ for freshman, junior and senior classes, as freshman classes are typically larger.

Faculty

When you think about a college professor don’t think of them as just another teacher – they are much more. In addition to being a teacher, they should counsel with you about your career goals, help you develop your strengths and identify opportunities, act as a mentor, and when merited, provide you a letter of recommendation. So when you’re choosing a college, take a good hard look at the quality of the professors it employs. If you already know what you’re going to major in then you should scrutinize the the quality of the professors supporting the program and department you’ll be involved with. Visit the campus and chat with professors and speak with students currently in your program of interest about their experience. Good professors will not only provide you with a good education, they’ll provide you avenues into the real world.

Keep in mind that it is not uncommon for colleges to allow graduate students to teach classes. You should find out how many of your courses are going to be taught by real professors versus graduate students.


Location

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a college is location. If you don’t like where you’re living when you go to college, it may end up being a miserable experience – even if it is an Ivy League school you’re attending. Remember, you’re likely to end up attending college for four or more years before you earn your degree so make sure you’re comfortable with the location where you’ll be living. If leaving home is not an option, consider attending a state college or community college in your area. If you’re comfortable traveling a long way from home to earn your degree, then consider whether you want to live in a big city, metropolitan area, small town, near the beach, where it’s warm all year, etc.

Also, take some time to consider how the college’s location will affect your education. Colleges in big cities and “party towns” tend to have a lot of distractions that may affect your academic performance. On the other hand, it may be difficult to find extracurricular off-campus activities if you’re located in a small rural town. You’ll also want to take into account crime rate and living costs when considering where you want to attend college.

Size

Determining what size of college best fits your needs will help to narrow down your choices. So you may want to know, what does it matter what size a college is? What is the difference between a large or small university? And what constitutes a “large” university versus a “small” university? These are all very good questions. The following are a few major differences between large and small colleges.

  • Large colleges and universities typically offer a larger variety of majors, concentrations, and degree programs than smaller schools. Smaller schools often focus on liberal arts and a few other specialities.

  • Large universities offer extensive resources for their students including libraries, computers, on-campus housing, athletics and extracurricular activities.

  • Large universities usually provide a diverse student body with varied backgrounds, cultures and interests. While a very attractive characteristic to some students, this can be overwhelming to others.

  • Smaller colleges offer a more intimate setting than larger colleges. You get to know just about everyone on campus they all get to know you too.

  • Smaller colleges typically offer fewer distractions than larger colleges.
Cost

The primary goal of most people going to college is to earn more money, not loose money. Notwithstanding, college does cost money and the price tag can vary greatly, even amount private colleges. When considering a college, make sure you’re aware of all the costs associate with attending the college, not just the cost of tuition. There are textbook costs, housing costs, fees, food and other expenses, and these can all add up to a whole lot very quickly.

Fees may include costs for nonresident or out-of-state students, health services, extracurricular activities, sports, and computers. Many individual college courses may also have additional fees associated with labs, supplies and equipment.

You’ll want to evaluate the cost of living on campus versus off campus. Many colleges offer “room and board” packages for students that cover the cost of both housing and food.

While all these costs may seem overwhelming, the majority of reputable colleges offer several forms of student financial aid in the form of loans, grants, and scholarships. Just make sure that the college you ultimately attend and the degree you earn will increase your earning potential and marketability upon graduation.

Majors

One of the most important decisions you’ll make either before or after you start college is what major you’ll pursue. A major is your primary course of study while attending college. Most bachelor degree programs require students to take basic courses in English, history, math and political science prior to launching into major courses. Most colleges require that you select a major by your sophmore year in college. During your junior and senior years in college most your courses will concentrate primarily on completing your major.

If you already know which career you want to pursue upon graduation, you’ll want to make sure any college you attend offers a major or degree track that supports your long-term career objectives. If you’re undecided, you’ll want to make sure you select a college that offers a large variety of majors to choose from.


Support services

Most larger colleges and universities are their own little self contained worlds, with on-campus housing, libraries, health centers, entertainment centers, cafeterias, food courts, shopping facilities, stores, computer labs, churches and counselors readily accessible to students.

Some colleges provide minimal health services while other provide health centers and clinics with doctors on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Some colleges provide their students free medical services, while others make health insurance policies available to any full-time student.

Academic counselors are also available for students who are seeking career guidance, academic guidance, or just need to some to talk to.

Campus Life

When it comes to selecting a college, campus life is a very important factor for many people. A top quality education should be your number one concern when considering which college to attend, but you can’t study all the time. Having a social life, participating in extracurricular activities, making new friends, and having fun are all part of the college experience. Take some time before applying to find out about a school’s student organizations, special interest clubs, as well as other campus activities.

College is the perfect place to develop and showcase your leadership skills. Participating in leadership roles is not only great experience for your future but it looks really good on a resume when you graduate and are out looking for a job. You should look into leadership training and take advantage of every opportunity to be an officer or leader in the organizations that interest you. Leadership roles and positions are available in residence halls, activities planning councils, student government, honor societies and other special interest organizations.

For some, athletics is an essential element of a fulfilling life. Campus life at major colleges and universities means football games, basket ball games, track and field events, intramurals and dozens of other sports activities. If athletics is an important part of your life, check out what’s available at the colleges you’re interested in.

Safety and security

These days it really is better to be safe than sorry, especially when evaluating different college campuses. While many college campuses appear safe, appearances can be deceiving. Over the years crime has increased everywhere, even on college campuses. Every college is required by law to publish a crime statistics report each year. This report includes burglaries, thefts, robberies, rapes, liquor violations, murders, weapons possessions on campus and drug abuse violations. Before attending any college you should review their crime statistics and find out what safeguards they’ve put in place to ensure the safety of their students.



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