Eight Points to Consider When Choosing a College
Finding a college that is the best possible match is a challenging task. Most high school students spend a year or more researching colleges, going on campus visits, and speaking with admissions counselors, all to learn more about the schools they are considering. However, even with that knowledge, many students are still unsure of which college will be best for them. In many cases it may be that they are unsure of what questions they should be asking and what characteristics they should be searching for. In an effort to help students struggling with this decision, here are ten points they may want to consider during this process:
In an ideal world, students would be able to attend the school of their choice without worrying about the costs. Sadly, this isn't the case. Of course, while cost is an important factor, it should be kept in perspective. A school with a high national ranking, or one that is well regarded for a program of study that a student is considering may be worth considering even if it means going over budget.
Campus and Local Culture
Campus culture is made up of several factors. These include student demographics, teaching styles, which extra-curricular activities receive support (and which do not), campus size, and whether or not the school has any religious affiliation. In many cases the campus culture mirrors local culture, but not always. When selecting a college, students should consider their own beliefs, values, and lifestyle, if they want to ensure that they will fit in at their school of choice.
Traditional Vs. Non-Traditional
Which is better, a traditional university or a non-traditional university? The answer to that question depends entirely on the student. The real questions students should be asking are: What are my career goals? What is my learning style? Do I need assurance that my degree will allow me to follow a track into graduate school? Will I need professional certifications in addition to my degree? Do I want to design my own major?
This is where many students make the mistake of engaging in black and white thinking. This is especially true for students who are considering careers which require advanced degrees. Consider this example. Joe's goal is to become a prosecuting attorney. One school he is considering is well known for its Pre-law program. Unfortunately, the tuition is fairly high, and Joe doesn't think he would fit in very well. Another school Joe is considering has a great degree program in Public Policy. It would cost less to attend, and Joe really enjoyed his campus visit. Rather than dismissing the second school, Joe does a little bit of research and learns that there are many law schools that would accept his BA in Public Policy.
For some students, this could be a big consideration. Many college campuses are located in or near small towns that don't have very many amenities. If this is the case, having a gym, laundry facilities, access to decent dining options, an adequate library, computer labs, and sources of recreation on campus are going to be very important. Of course, if the campus is located in or near a larger city, and the student has access to transportation, this is going to be less important.
Distance From Home
This is a tough decision. It's also a topic on which many students and their parents clash. Moving away to college is a great way to gain independence and new life experiences. On the other hand, it also means that loved ones will not be immediately accessible in an emergency. Students and parents should honestly access the student's level of maturity and independence along with family needs and structure when making this decision.
For Profit Vs. Not For Profit
There is an increasing number of for-profit colleges recruiting students these days. These schools carry great appeal for many reasons. They offer flexible scheduling. They have very relaxed admissions requirements. Finally, they offer students the opportunity to earn degrees and certificates in a brief amount of time. On the other hand, tuition rates tend to be very high, credits received at these institutions aren't always accepted by other schools, and accreditation is often suspect. Students wishing to attend schools with a fast track to a career should consider their local community college.
This can be tricky. It is easy to assume that a smaller college will have classroom sizes that are more intimate than larger schools. This isn't always true. More often than not, a student's choice in major is the biggest factor when it comes to class size. Students majoring in programs that are wildly popular should expect to deal with larger class sizes. Students majoring in programs with fewer students or in elite programs are more likely to find themselves in classrooms with fewer students.
Remember, no college is going to be a perfect fit for anybody. However, keeping the above list in mind when going through the selection process will certainly help students and their families find the best fit possible.