How to Choose a College That Meets Your Goals: 15 Factors
We really don’t spend enough time teaching how to choose a college in our secondary schools, which is clearly a shame when you consider what an important factor it is in the trajectory of the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, many students make the decision of where to go without considering whether they even want to go or what they want to go for.
In the following article, we plan to solve this issue by giving you the 15 factors you absolutely must consider if you plan on going to college. Make your decision only after you’ve considered each of these very carefully. Let’s begin!
1. Look at Degrees Offered
The first and best place to start is with the course catalog. What types of degrees are offered? How niche do you plan to go with your profession?
Most schools will have the standards in place: English, journalism, biology, business, math. However, some are more well-known for specific programs. For example, a degree from a school like Arkansas Tech University may not be differentiated from other state schools. But if you graduate with the school’s prestigious hospitality management degree, you have a degree that can really get you somewhere in a lucrative industry.
Consider the schools where you’re going. What’s on their lists that you can’t get anywhere else? Do those courses of study align with what you want to do? Now’s the time to decide.
2. Check Class Size
It’s no surprise that quality of outcome depends largely on class size. That’s because the more individualized the instruction you can receive, the easier it becomes to have your questions answered. From there, understanding develops.
If you’re the type of person who benefits from one-on-one instruction — and most do — then you seriously want to consider a low student-to-teacher ratio. The lower you can get the better, and you probably don’t want to go any higher than 30-to-1, or else it becomes easy to get lost in the mix.
3. Consider the Distance to Your Home
Some students want to stay close to home for school, but they may not have the best options for doing so while getting a quality education. Therefore, one might have to branch out. In that case, it becomes wise to check the proximity of each school to home. If you plan on driving home a lot, then the shorter distance will be the best. However, you should really…
4. Decide If You Want to Stay Home or Move Far Away
College is a great time to break away from the confines of home. You get to redefine who you are and what you want out of life. When learning how to choose a college, you should consider the amount of freedom and independence that you need.
The freer the spirit the more one should consider heading out-of-state. However, it’s important to realize that out-of-state attendance comes with its share of challenges — namely, the distance that it places you from loved ones and the extra cost of out-of-state tuition.
5. Develop a List of Choices
For the first four options on this list of how to choose a college, we’ve discussed the baseline characteristics of what you need from your school of choice. Now it’s time to consider some of the more advanced factors. Before you can go all-in on that, though, it helps to know every school you’ll be dealing with.
Make a list of 3-5 schools so you can get a good overview of what’s out there and which options will be the most all-encompassing for your preferences. From that list, write down every factor that matters and do some further research on whether each school checks the boxes.
6. Learn the COVID Protocols
COVID-19 has changed the paradigm of what we expect from work, school, and home life. Some schools are handling it better than others. You don’t want to put yourself or your loved ones in jeopardy, but you can’t stop living life either. The best way around this is straight through.
Examine what each of your favorite schools are doing to cull the spread of COVID-19. What security protocols have they taken? How seriously do they act when there’s a violation of those protocols? Understanding the answers to these questions will give you peace of mind and could even save your life or the lives of people you love.
7. Look Into Campus Life
Campus life may look a lot differently in the fall and every subsequent semester. But part of the appeal of college is that you can still go there to meet people, hang out with new or old friends, and build a life that is uniquely yours to set the course for adulthood.
Colleges that can still offer those possibilities are important. What types of hangouts do they have? What fun things are there to do nearby? Is campus life even still as crucial of a factor to you in the post-pandemic age? Make your list about the campus life elements that are important to you. See which of your school choices align with those wants.
8. Start Ranking Your Preferred Choices
Now that you really know what you like, it’s time to rank your choices. Of course, not every school will meet every criteria. Enough of them will, though, to help you decide your best options. As you rank these schools, there will be a few more factors to consider.
9. Dive Into the Programs Themselves
What does each college do to make sure you have a job after graduation? Do the majority of their graduates end up pursuing a career path that’s in line with what they wanted to do? What of their faculty? Do they have meaningful accomplishments beyond their job credentials? Programs that place you with the finest instructors make it easier to find your way after college, so all these factors are interconnected.
10. Greek Life
Greek Life may or may not be important to you. One thing is for sure, though. Joining a fraternity ups your social game, helps you make connections, and can lead to lifelong relationships of both a personal and professional nature. You may not wish to pledge, but it’s certainly worth considering if you’ve always had a difficult time getting and staying connected to people.
11. Extracurricular Activities
Sports, music programs, student government, journalism opportunities, research experiments. A college worth its salt should give you plenty of things to do to expand your horizons or simply enjoy life beyond the classroom. How important are extracurricular activities to you? Which ones would you like to observe or participate in? Let those answers guide you.
12. Safety of the Community and Surrounding Areas
You won’t be staying on campus the whole time. You’ll want to venture out into the community-at-large. When you do so, you will want a safe and active place that allows you to be entertained, enjoy different cultural opportunities, and stay active.
Check the crime data within the community. Learn where the safe spots and the not-so-safe spots are. You might even consider reaching out to the community’s police department to ask about hot-spots of criminal activity so you will know where to avoid.
Diversity is extremely important for being able to function well in society. What are the demographics of the school you are planning to attend? Is it a largely homogeneous base of students, or are there students of all types — Black, White, Hispanic, LGBTQIA++? Knowing this information will give you a good idea of what to expect and a place where you can go to fit in if you found yourself under-represented in your hometown.
14. Ways of Getting Around
Owning a car means buying car gas, making car payments (sometimes), paying insurance, and getting burdened with being the friend with the car for all your friends who don’t own one. Does the community where your college of choice is have public transit systems? Are they inexpensive and easy-to-use? Do the math and see if they’re viable options. If you do have to get a car, what will that do to your cost of living?
15. Graduation Rate
Graduation rate is important, so make sure you check it before you enroll. Don’t get too hung up on it, though. It’s far more important that the graduates who make it through are set up for success.
Learning How to Choose a College Will Place You on the Road to Success
We hope you know the importance of how to choose a college, and all the ways that it will factor into your life moving forward. It may only be four years, after all, but the implications of it will last a lifetime. Good luck as you make your decision, high school seniors. It’s time to start giving it some serious thought.
[Featured Image by PickPik]