There are so many factors that can influence your college choice. We often think about which school has the best rankings, which will sound the best, which city sounds the most exciting, and if we have settled on a college major, then often times the school offering the best program will take first place. However there are a myriad of other little factors that often do not even enter our minds, as we get so caught up in the big picture.
Firstly, regardless of how badly you may want to attend a certain school, the admissions rate plays a large role. If your SAT scores are high enough, then go for it and dream big. However if you weren’t quite so successful on your test, you may have to reconsider and be realistic with yourself, and apply to schools in which you have a better chance of acceptance. Of course you can always try, however applications are quite costly. It is also important to take a look at the school’s graduation rate, because at the end of the day, even if you are accepted to the school of your dreams, if you don’t finish, it doesn’t mean much.
Another important rate to research before choosing a school is the freshman retention rate. This means looking at the amount of first year students who actually continued onto their next year, which can give a pretty good indication of how happy the student’s are with their experience, and of course if they were able to continue to sophomore year. Another important factor to consider is the ratio of students to faculty, if having more personal help from your professors is important to you. Even if the ratio is relatively low, the overall size of the school may be a significant factor for you, while some may find a very large school as a challenge to fit in, and others may find it harder to find their group within a very small school.
Another aspect to examine if you are interested in pursuing your studies after your first degree, is to see how many graduates of the college continue onto graduate school, which can provide some insight into how well they prepare their students to continue their studies. And then of course, regardless if you plan on continuing your studies, you are most likely going to want to find a job eventually, and therefore could greatly benefit from taking a look at the percentage of students who found employment following graduation. You may also be very excited and set on studying your major of choice, however some programs require students to take a wide variety of courses, which may be either an advantage or disadvantage to you, and thus is worthwhile to look at the curriculum prior. Looking at the curriculum can also be of value to see what the course availability is and how it works with your schedule, perhaps if you have to work as well.
The quality of the professors as well as the quality of the department of study are crucial aspects to consider. These are the factors that truly determine the level of education you will be getting, so take a look at where they studied and what experience they have, as well as what reputation the department has and what research opportunities they offer. And for some, having a teaching assistant can serve as a very helpful tool. Perhaps you have always dreamed of studying abroad, so you will want to make sure in advance that your college of choice offers this option and easily accepts credits from outside schools. And even more importantly, you will want to make sure that your college is an internationally accredited school. For the most part they are, but if it online or a smaller school, you’re better off being safe than sorry.
Student life is also a very large and significant aspect to consider from many different respects, since for many, going to college is not merely about receiving a degree. If you are looking for the full college experience, it means living with your fellow students, which mostly means in dorms on campus, and therefore you will need to check out the availability and how many students actually live on campus as well, as not every school has an active on campus life. If you are interested in being part of a sorority of fraternity and see it is a make or break factor of your college experience, you should keep in mind that not all colleges have greek life. Perhaps the size of the campus is also important to you, if you will find it difficult to make your way from class to class. Your eating styles are also something to think about, as some schools have required meal plans. If you are a picky eater and enjoy cooking, perhaps it is not for you. And if you their are no meal plans offered and you’ve never made toast before, this could be problematic and expensive as well.
Another big part of student life is the extracurricular activities offered. The more the school offers, the bigger chance you of finding at least one for you. Sports participation is another thing to consider, whether you are an athlete or big fan. Perhaps you despise anything and everything to do with sports, and that may very well be the biggest aspect of the school. Even more importantly, the party life can really affect your entire experience. Some students are all about the party life, while others want nothing to do with it.
The financial aspect is something we often think about, however usually not much beyond the annual tuition free. However the cost of room and board on campus or in the area can vary throughout colleges. If you are in need of financial aid, for the most part colleges vary on their policies. And if you need to work throughout your studies, it could be helpful to see how many of their students work as well, and if it is encouraged. Furthermore, even if you are dying to go to a certain college, their application fee might just be out of budget. If you do manage to get into the college of your dreams, also take a look at the average debt previous graduating classes found themselves in.