For many young people, the next step after high school is college. But among the many university options, how do you select the perfect place for you, your goals, and your characteristics?
Let’s go over 18 tips on how to pick the right school so that you can make the most of your college experience.
1. Do Your Research
Like many other things in life, doing your research before jumping in is essential—research colleges thoroughly, including the admission process, graduation rates, and available degrees.
A great place to start is college websites themselves, as you can typically get a good idea of the academic offerings and environment directly from the institution’s internet presence. Check out their social media accounts and other links for the full picture.
2. Check the Rankings
College rankings are another great way to figure out how good your chosen school is in terms of academic achievement, graduation rates, and more. This can help you see how successful other students have been when attending that school.
However, keep in mind that although these metrics are an important factor in how good a school is, college rankings are also just statistics and do not account for individual experiences, no matter how high they rank in a world report.
3. Consider Your Major
While you don’t have to be settled on your major completely, it can really help your search if you can look at specific departments and the courses they offer to contribute to a chosen college degree.
Investigate the department you might be involved in for your major—is the faculty well-known in the field? Do the professors have adequate experience and contributions to research outside the school setting?
These are important questions when figuring out if a school is a good college and whether or not it will benefit your major by attending classes there.
4. Don’t Jump at the First Opportunity
While it’s important to be proactive and on top of things when searching for and applying to colleges, try not to jump at the first one that accepts you and forgo all other options.
Do many campus visits, consider community colleges and large universities, and take enough time for your college search to include all the options.
Prospective students might be tempted to go to the first “okay” college they find, but you should be certain.
5. Start Early
Additionally, begin college planning early on. It takes a while to get a response, and there are limited spaces for every prospective student who applies, so don’t put it off.
The best colleges will fill up quite quickly for many students, and you might be stuck with secondary college options instead. Avoid this by starting your search early on!
6. Look Into Financial Aid
Not only does tuition matter when considering what you can afford when choosing a college, but you should also do some research into available financial aid that could help out.
Scholarships, loans, and grants are all great options for assistance with your finances, particularly for anyone who has to fund their own schooling and may find it a struggle. Check with the university’s student services for financial aid options.
7. Consider the Geographic Location
Do you want to go to college out of state, or would you prefer to stay close to home? The actual location of the institution might influence your decision as you choose a college, particularly when it comes to commute and accommodation options.
Attending school in a different state or even a different country can be thrilling and the experience of a lifetime, but it also can be difficult in terms of family contact, social circles, and cost.
But staying near home might not be the best option, either. So, it’s important to weigh the decision of where in the world you want to spend the next few years of your academic life.
8. Visit the Campus
One of the best ways to choose the best college for you is by participating in a campus tour, or at the very least, a campus visit that allows you to explore and get a feel for the area.
Most universities and colleges offer tours and orientation groups that welcome you to the campus and help you get acquainted with everything it has to offer. You can connect with other potential students and get an inside look at campus life.
9. Keep In Mind the Campus Environment
Even if you aren’t living on campus, the amount of time spent around the area will be substantial during the course of your degree. So, it’s very important to make sure the campus environment is one that you enjoy, and that makes you feel safe.
Delve into the available activities during your campus visits, and try to read about the college life available there. Are there enough extracurricular activities to keep you busy while at college? What type of facilities do they have?
10. Investigate the University Library
You will undoubtedly become well acquainted with the university library during your time there, so visiting it beforehand is a good idea. Are there enough resources available for your chosen college degree? Is there enough room to study?
The best college will offer many research opportunities, and even if the library doesn’t have everything under its roof, you should be able to bring in outside research sources to help with your studies.
11. Look Into Job Connections
You will likely transfer directly from college into the workforce, as many careers value higher education and offer job opportunities to those with a bachelor’s degree or other qualifications.
So, checking the career options that come out of a particular college is key to your future success!
Look into campus career fairs, hiring rates out of departments, and other factors that could help you identify how good your job opportunities might be at that school.
12. Think About Student Housing
A major part of campus life is where you will live for the next four years of your life. Between on-campus housing or staying home, your university accommodations are an important aspect to consider.
If you want to live at home while attending college, is the commute easy enough to complete every day without causing too much stress? Or, if you are planning on living on your own, will you stay in a dorm or find a place off-campus? Just remember if you plan to live on your own, you will need to purchase renters insurance.
While it might seem trivial, figuring out your accommodations in advance is key to choosing the best college for your situation and needs.
13. Make a Short List
As you work on determining the ideal college choice for you, make sure to write them down and list the pros and cons of each. This will help you compare different colleges and narrow it down to the best school.
14. Move On From Rejection
The admissions process is stringent, and if you don’t get into a particular school, try not to take it personally.
Even if your grades and test scores are high, too many applicants might mean you were not accepted through no fault of your own. Take a breath and move on!
15. Consider School Size
School size can sometimes determine how your academic experience goes. Whether it is a big school or a small school, your courses should be tailored to your interests, and professors should be available for questions and advice.
This can be easier to access in small colleges rather than large universities, as private colleges tend to have smaller class sizes, but it generally depends on the school. It’s what you feel comfortable with and what will benefit your learning.
16. Set Your Goals
Establishing your personal and professional goals is key when determining your education route. What do you want to achieve during your degree, and what career path do you hope will be open to you after graduation?
Being able to recognize your endgame clearly will help direct your choices for academics, jobs, and volunteering during your degree.
17. Talk to Other Students
Lastly, chatting with current students is a great way to learn about campus life and help you in the college search process.
Try to connect with the student body that you might be a part of during your campus visit and ask about the school, the student life, and any other queries that you might have. Most people will be happy to answer your questions!