7 Tips On Selecting A College That’s A Good Match For You
Selecting a college isn’t an easy decision. In doing so, you have to balance various factors like location, prestige, cost, and what your overall educational goals are. It’s not a decision that you want to make at the last minute, so if you’re in high school — freshman or senior — you should start weighing the options as soon as possible. When doing so, use these 7 tips as a guide.
1. Set and rank your priorities.
At the top of every student’s priorities should be their major. Beyond that, you have to decide what it is you’re looking for in a college. Is social more important to teacher-student ratios? (Let’s hope not.) Does the physical environment play a part? Maybe you have some friends, who will also be attending? Don’t want to be far from home, or, on the other hand, do you wish to be as far away as possible? Whatever your reasoning, you should be able to determine why you feel that way and how important it is to your overall decision.
2. Visit the campus.
Costs may not always allow you to visit the college campus you’re interested in, but whenever possible, I strongly advise that you pay a visit in person and not just rely on the university’s reputation to alleviate any fears or concerns you may have. Visiting the campus also gives you the chance to envision your life at the school and talk to representatives, who can answer your questions in a more intimate setting.
3. Focus on your overarching goal, not just your major.
The days of highly marketable bachelors degrees are quickly fading. These days, the undergraduate work is but a portion of your overall educational journey. That means when you select a school you should do so while factoring in what you plan to do after attaining the initial four-year degree. Are you going to get your masters degree at the same school or go somewhere else? Will this school look good on your resume as you apply for graduate programs? Perhaps you wish to control as many costs as you can? If so, then maybe consider attending a community college for the first two years, an in-state public university for the last two years, and then your college of choice for the post-graduate years. Whatever you decide, have an endgame in mind.
4. Compare specific departments.
When you are certain about the field that you want to go in to, you may want to drill a little deeper than a school’s general reputation before deciding where to go. Take, for instance, the field of engineering, where success is contingent on application and not just knowledge. Would you rather make straight A’s at a school with a poor reputation for engineering or B’s at a school with an excellent reputation in that area? Your answer should definitely be B’s at the good school because you’ll learn a lot more and you’ll have a more impressive resume credential when you graduate.
5. Research the school’s job placement credentials.
With student debt sky high and nowhere to go in the immediate future but up, a school’s job placement ability is more important than ever when selecting a college. When checking this out, you’ll want to know two pieces of information. 1) The percentage of graduates, who graduate with full-time work, compared to other schools; and 2) Earnings stats for graduates from the school, specifically for your major of choice.
6. Dig in to the financials.
You don’t want to tie your future directly to something like money, but the hard fact of life is that cost does play a factor, and some schools simply cost too much and produce too little. At some point, particularly if you end up going to medical or pharmacy school, you’re going to end up spending significant money for your education. But you don’t have to start racking up that debt fresh out of high school. When it comes to undergraduate work, go wherever makes the most financial sense. Factors at play: the cost of tuition, your amount of scholarships and grants, work study opportunities, and any additional financial aid the school has available.
7. Have a backup (or two).
As the song says, “We can’t always get what we want,” and sometimes, that’s the case for college students. While you shouldn’t have any issue getting into a public university, the more prestigious schools like Stanford and Yale are considerably choosier when it comes to accepting candidates. Therefore, if you do aim high and fail to get in, don’t fret. As long as you have applied the same tips above to your backup options, you’re bound to get into a school where you can thrive.
Selecting a college is a very important choice, and you are right to be giving it the consideration that you are. Don’t let initial perceptions influence your decision. Dig in to all the specifics that we’ve mentioned above, and you’ll be well on your way. Good luck!
[Image via FastWeb]