There are thousands of institutions of higher learning scattered throughout the United States, and many more thousands of students planning to enroll in college, all different. What are some of the most common ways to choose a college?
Many students limit their search to the colleges and universities that are located nearby their house. There is nothing wrong about this approach, and it actually may work the best for many people.
But there's more to consider than just how easy it will be for you to bring your laundry home on the weekends. You'll be on this campus daily. When you're not studying, you'll be looking for things to do.
This is your chance to travel. You may never again get a chance to live in New York City or by the beach or in the mountains. Perhaps the campus and what is around the school are as important and the school itself. Are you (or do you want to be) a surfer, a hiker, a fan of museums or an urbanite? Pick a place you want to explore.
Being close to (or far away from) family and friends is a factor. You'll meet many new people, but you'll want to return to the familiar folks sometimes. Will it be a short drive or a long flight? There might be a sweet spot for you: close enough to get home every once in a while but not so near that your parents will drop in every weekend.
Everything in life, including college, is an equation. Income minus cost equals profit. Will you spend a hundred thousand dollars more on your education to make another thousand a year? You might. After a century on the job, you'll break even.
Get your degree as cheap as you can and get to work. Low cost leads to greater profit. Don't spend your career weighted down with student debt. It can be like a bad rash that never goes away.
Look at the average starting and mid-career salaries for your chosen major at College Factual. Compare that to your possible school. Then look at the costs and financial aid you'll receive. It's simple to look at it this way. What school and major will make a profit soonest?
Your whole life, your talent and passion have pointed you the same direction. You want to be a marine biologist, writer, teacher or personal trainer. You know what you need to learn. You just need the right help.
Research will tell you what schools specialize and excel at your field, but you'll need to look closer. You need to visit campuses and meet with faculty. See the places where you'll be working. Talk to the people you'll be working with and learning from. Does this feel like a place you'll be successful? Are these the types of teachers you'll learn from best?
Don't know what you want to major in? The majority of students don't. But you can still get an idea of what topics interest you most and point yourself in the right direction. Try Majors Matcher to jump start your search.
#4 Social Life
It's okay to consider this. You will work hard. You also must play hard. If the student body seems unbearably uptight and stuffy, it could drive you nuts.
This is your greatest chance to bust out and have a blast. After college you'll have a career, family, home, retirement and all sorts of Big Kid Stuff to stress over. For now, learning and having fun are your two biggest priorities.
So pick a school with a rowdy sports program. Be one of 100,000 crazy football fans. Join a fun fraternity or sorority. Be artsy. Be social. The friends you make way, way outside the classroom could turn into your most trusted business connections.
But stay on target and remember to get your work done. Don't be in school for eight years still looking for a four year degree. Everyone will know you throw a great party but no one will remember your major.
We'd like to say that prestige doesn't matter, but for some people this may matter a lot.
It may be important for you to be able to say you're going someplace great. Your parents and teachers want to brag about it too. At job interviews, social gatherings and class reunions you'll create an impact by saying: “I went to Harvard.” It will open doors, create connections and present opportunities that the average college diploma will not.
Beyond that, will it profit you? That depends on your individual situation. If an elite university degree leaves you deeply in debt, be sure to consider if it will actually lead to a higher salary. If often does with business, education and social sciences. Not so much with STEM careers. A more affordable school may be more profitable in the long run.
And will you enjoy it? Will four or more years immersed in a high-pressure, highfalutin' academic culture wear on you? It's not for everyone.
Take a balanced approach to picking a school. Look at all the angles. Consider the practical and the spiritual. In the end, none of it can be completely quantified. It's your life. Do what feels right.
A great place to start is with College Match.