How to choose a college

College students throwing their graduation caps

Narrowing down your options can be difficult

Choosing the right college is a significant decision that can shape your future in numerous ways. With countless options available, it's essential to consider multiple factors to ensure you make the best choice for your academic and personal growth. From location to campus culture, each aspect plays a crucial role in your college experience. 

1. Location

The location of a college can greatly influence your overall experience. Consider whether you prefer an urban, suburban or rural setting. Urban campuses may provide easier access to internships, cultural events and a vibrant social scene, while rural campuses offer a quieter environment conducive to focus and tranquility.

2. Campus and class sizes

Class sizes can significantly impact your learning experience. Smaller class sizes often allow for more personalized attention from professors and foster a sense of community among students. On the other hand, larger universities with larger class sizes might offer a wider range of courses and research opportunities.

3. Campus facilities and amenities

Evaluate the quality of campus facilities such as libraries, laboratories, recreational centers and dining options. Other amenities that many people forget to analyze are things like physical and mental health resources, family or non-traditional student resources and the availability of people like counselors or advisors to help guide you throughout your college experience. These amenities can enhance your college experience and contribute to your overall well-being.

4. Financial aid and scholarships

Understanding the financial aid options and scholarship opportunities available is crucial in determining the affordability of a college education. Research grants, scholarships, work-study programs and loans to determine the financial support you can receive. 

When scholarships, grants and federal aid aren’t enough, private student loans can be a necessary and cost-effective way to fill educational funding gaps. 

5. Costs other than tuition

Tuition isn't the only thing that can make college expensive. Consider additional costs such as housing, meal plans, textbooks, transportation and extracurricular activities. These expenses can vary significantly between colleges and should be factored into your budget.

6. Campus culture

Explore the campus culture to ensure it aligns with your values and interests. Consider factors such as diversity, inclusivity, social activities and extracurricular opportunities.

7. Programs and degrees offered

Research the programs and degrees offered by the college to ensure they align with your academic and career goals. Look for colleges that excel in your area of interest and offer opportunities for hands-on experience and internships. Also consider that many students change their major multiple times throughout their time at college - be sure that the college you choose has options for several of your interests so you aren't stuck deciding between a transfer or a major that's a second choice. 

8. Academic quality

Evaluate the academic reputation of the college, including faculty credentials, research opportunities and graduation rates. 

9. Housing options

Consider the housing options available on and off-campus. Evaluate factors such as cost, location, amenities and roommate compatibility to find the best living situation for your needs.

10. How earned credits transfer

As AP and concurrent enrollment courses become more prevalent, if you have already earned college credits, it's important to understand how those credits will transfer. Not all colleges and universities accept these credits in the same way, so you should ask about the transfer policies of the colleges you are considering. After all, you'd hate to see the time and money you've already put in towards college credits not be applied when you're a full-time student. 

What factors are most important to you?

Choosing the right college requires careful consideration of various factors that are important to you as an individual. Reflect on your priorities and preferences to determine which aspects matter most in your college experience, and this will help you to rank your choices. By thoroughly researching and evaluating your options, you can make an informed decision that sets you on the path to success.