Choosing the Right College: 6 Qualifiers
Finding the right college is a tough choice, and it’s never too early to think about it. There are a variety of factors that play into the selection. Your challenge is to look at each one and determine the criteria that are most important to your situation. To help you do just that, we’ve put together a list of the things that motivate high school students the most. Let’s get started!
It may not be the biggest factor for you but location is nonetheless important from both cost and performance perspectives. Some students work well in areas where there’s a lot going on. They see broadening their personal experiences as a vital part of their career path and want to be “where the action is.” Others choose career paths where intense focus is required. As a result, they may end up going to prestigious colleges in smaller, close-knit communities.
Don’t discount the role that location plays in helping you pick the right college. What makes the location “right” will differ from person to person, and it will fluctuate in impact. Know how important it is to you.
Just like location can make a difference in the type of education you receive, opportunities can differ from institute to institute. Some schools offer a more robust, well-rounded education, with nationally recognized programs that you won’t find just anywhere. Others pride themselves on going “an inch wide and a mile deep,” offering more intense focus on specific subject areas, like MIT with technology, for instance.
Ultimately, some great qualities to watch out for are schools that teach you how to think, that give you opportunities to pursue meaningful research, and that offer a large enough course selection to allow for specialized knowledge. You should also pay attention to a college or university’s track record for job placement. If you notice a large enough discrepancy between choices, it’s fair to ask about why. You deserve some assurance that your degree will have life expectancy beyond your four years in college.
Believe it or not, as bad of a rap as colleges get from the media and politicians these days, there are still a great many that have instant prestige and brand recognition. While it’s likely these institutes of higher learning will face even greater scrutiny in the coming years, this reality holds true.
As a potential student, it’s time to ask yourself if prestige still matters. What, in other words, are you looking for? Is there something in a “brand name” that’s worthy of your consideration? Does it mean anything at all? Maybe instead you are motivated by one-on-one time with your instructor. If so, consider the student to teacher ratio. If cost is a factor, try picking the best school you can. Study after study has shown that even a quick path to a degree has more prestige and earning power than nothing at all.
Decide how you define prestige and pick the best path open to you.
Where are your grades now? Are you earning mostly A’s or barely getting by? You don’t have to be discouraged by your answer to this question, but you do need to use it to be realistic.
Obviously C’s and D’s are going to present something of a roadblock for getting into Stanford or Harvard. Your time would be better served pursuing a state school where the barriers to entry are lower.
Degrees from lower-tier schools will still make you marketable, and if you’re able to raise your performance factors at the undergraduate level, then you could end up getting into a more prestigious graduate school. You would certainly be surprised by how many C students in high school went on to great things once they found the right college or university to help cultivate their talents. Just remember that the more rigorous you are on yourself, the easier it will be to find success wherever you choose for your college home.
5. Role Models
Not to be taken lightly in your hunt to choose the right college or university, are the footsteps of those who’ve come before you. Whatever the niche that you find yourself pursuing as a career path, there is a pioneer, who has “been there and done that.”
Think of the people you admire the most professionally. Then, study their career trajectory. Where did they go to school? What was the rationale behind their decisions?
You don’t have to be beholden to every twist and turn of an Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos, but you can definitely learn something from their successes and use that newfound knowledge to create your own story. If you’ve yet to find your role models, now is a great time to start!
Different schools are known for different accomplishments outside the classroom. Just say the words, “Alabama Crimson Tide,” and you probably think of football. “Kentucky Wildcats”? We’re going to say college basketball.
At the end of the day, you should ask yourself how important any of that really is. There is no right or wrong response. In fact, some of you may be really great at these extracurricular activities, and each one could open up a wealth of new educational opportunities at schools that would have otherwise turned you down.
Even if you simply “want to be a Wildcat,” finding a school whose extracurricular programs you identify with can have a great impact on your overall education.
In the post above, we’ve given you a blueprint for the majorly important qualifiers of choosing the right college or university. It’s up to you how each one is weighted. What’s important is that you consider each carefully. Also, Forbes has this handy dandy quiz that you can take now to further shed light.
What are the most important factors for you when it comes to choosing the right college or university? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
[Image via Examiner]