picking a college

Top Factors to Consider When Picking a College

Now that senior year is almost over, it is time to step forward and start looking for the best university or college you want to attend.

We understand that choosing the best school is a tough task for every prospective student.

While most universities aggressively advertise themselves, it is still a big and difficult decision to make. So it is perfectly normal to take some time and consider a lot of things into consideration before making any final decisions.

Remember picking a college also means mean choosing the study, state, and institution you want to spend your college life in for the next four years.

Making the wrong or impulsive decisions would just waste time, money, resources, and all efforts.

So to help you make the right choice, we have listed some of the top factors to consider when choosing a college or university.

Tuition Fees

Picking a College

Indeed, the foremost factor that would affect your college choice is the tuition fees. They are especially high in the US, so it is vital to choose an educational institution wisely.

If in case you have a budget and do not want to have a massive debt after you graduate, we highly advised you to filter some of your initial choices. Consider the maximum amount of money you can afford and then narrow your choices to only the schools you can afford. This way, you would not go over budget and have a large debt after you graduate.        

But, you should note that there are a lot of different factors that can affect the price of learning.

Ivy leagues universities are not just competitive to get into; their tuition fees are competitive as well.  Keep in mind that once you move out and pick a college outside the current state you live in, then your tuition and other expenses would also increase.  

If tuition fees are the only thing standing between you and your chance to get a college education, then we highly advise you to apply for a scholarship.

Both federal and state governments have several scholarship programs that can finance your education. Other than that, you can also check the Federal Student Aid website to know more about the requirements and process of applying for a scholarship.

You can also get help from these people or organizations below

  • the financial aid office at your chosen college or university
  • TRIO counselor
  •  the Department of Labor
  • your state grant agency
  • Foundations
  • Religious Organizations
  • Civic Groups
  • Professional Associations
  • Ethnicity-based organizations
  • Your parent’s employers

If you are a gifted student, then there are also merit-based types of scholarships that would help finance your education just by getting high grades all throughout your college years.

It is worth noting that regardless of the type of scholarship you applied to, it can get competitive because there are only limited slots up for grabs.

That being the case, you should meet (or exceed) the standards set by the scholarship-giver. You can do this by submitting a great recommendation letter from a notable person, having the best essay writing services review your college application letter, or getting a high score on your SATs.

Location of College

The location of the school is an essential factor to consider. As we have said earlier, your fees would significantly increase if you choose a college or university outside your state.

Other than cost, you have to research the school location’s weather, distance from your hometown, commute, job opportunities, internship programs, and so on.

If you are not used to extremely hot temperatures, then Texas and Arizona might not be the best location for you.

You have to decide whether you want to stay close or completely move far away from your hometown, where all your family and friends live. It is one of the big decisions you have to make before college. Should you stay or move out of your hometown?

Remember that there are several state and community colleges that you can opt for. Going to college does not always mean moving out of your hometown and starting out a new life in a big, new city.

There are lots of great state and community colleges that offer high-quality education and provide a great learning environment.

The price of education does not always outweigh the price of moving out of state. If in case there are already great colleges and universities near your hometown, then you should reconsider your school choices.

However, this should not discourage you to take the leap and move far away from your hometown for better opportunities. For some students, moving out of state is the best option they have, regardless of location.

Academic Quality

Picking a College

It is vital not to forget why you are going to college in the first place. The main reason why everyone goes to college is to learn and prep for their chosen career in the future.

So if you are planning to become an engineer in the future, then you should choose a university that offers great engineering courses. After all, it makes perfect sense not to choose a business-specialized university if your chosen career path in engineering, right?

One of the best places to start your research and investigation is through the internet. You would be amazed at how a quick Google search can yield several school recommendations based on your chosen field of study. There are online groups and forums of alumni who can share their college experiences and even give you advice on which schools are the best for your field of study.

ince gauging an educational institution’s expertise can be quite difficult, we highly suggest you do some research, find out the student-per-professor ratio, or even ask your current guidance counselor for help. They can point you in the right direction and even recommend a few schools based on your chosen career path.

However, we advise you to be wary and more discerning of the information you read on the internet. Sometimes, these are just marketing ploys to get you to enroll.  

Living Conditions

If you decided to move out of your parent’s house, then you would be spending more time in your dorm rooms than your classrooms.

With that, checking the living conditions of the school should be one of your top priorities.

Generally, colleges and universities provide housing to their students. The rent for these housing can go both ways (either cheap or expensive) depending on the school.

Another option is to rent a place near the school.

Other college student even lives together to decrease their expenses and divide the monthly bill (e.g. cost of rent, water, electricity, etc.). You can join online groups or school forums if you are looking for a roommate or a place to live in.

It is important that conduct rigorous checks. Remember that this would be your home for the next four years or so. That said, you have to make sure that your living condition is okay and that you would be comfortable for the next four years or so.

To get the proper feel of the school’s living conditions, you can simply ask the school counselor or just walk around the college campus and observe the life of current student.

If you know any alumni from the same school, then asking them about their previous living conditions would make your research much easier. Aside from the living conditions, remember to also ask about their estimated monthly expense.

Doing this would give you a better idea of how much your monthly allowance should be.

Career Opportunities

Picking a College

While your passion for learning is important, you have to consider the career opportunities after you graduate as well.

By simply evaluating your chosen school and field of study, do you think you can secure a job after college and pay off your student loans after you graduate?

Is this field of study and school’s tuition fees outweigh the job opportunities that I will have after I graduate?

Even though these types of questions might seem gloomy or depressing, these are the realities that you have to face after you get your college degree.

For instance, if you chose to major in Music and you pick a school located or far away from the music scene, then it would be much harder for you to get an internship or experience in that field.

From that standpoint alone, you could have picked a school where there would be more opportunities for aspiring musicians like you.

So do not underestimate the importance of career opportunities when choosing the best place to study. Explore the labor market and discover what colleges offer not only the best education program but also the best hands-on programs or internship opportunities as well.

This way, you can pursue your passion and still have a viable career after your graduate.

Graduation and Retention rates

Another factor to consider when choosing the right college is their graduation rates. We have mentioned several times that earning a college diploma generally requires four years’ worth of studying.

If you noticed that the school has a low retention rate or if an alarming number of students are not graduating in the four-year mark, then that could be a red flag.

When you noticed this trend in your chosen school, then we highly suggest you do more in-depth research about the institution as well as hear the reviews and comments of the alumni of the school.

Low retention rates sometimes mean that the students are often not happy with the curriculum. This just means that most of them end up transferring before they even got into the four-year graduation mark.

International Relations

Picking a College

Several colleges and universities in the United States are affiliated with governments and schools from other countries.

Some students often take this into consideration because their field of study requires them to study or do an internship abroad.

If that is the case for you, then you should do your due diligence and check whether the institution has a vibrant international relationship with other countries.

Another factor that is also related to international relations is the school’s academics and research program. If you think that your chosen field of study is way too specific, then you should find a check for other schools abroad and see which US schools are affiliated with them. This way, it would be much easier for you to apply for an international program in the future.

Oftentimes, having a way too specific field of study can even give you an edge over other applicants because it strengthens the international relations of the US school that you want to study in.

Extracurricular Activities

One of the things that makes university life bearable and a lot more enjoyable are extracurricular.  Your hobbies and interest would keep you afloat (and sane) during the four years’ worth of studying.

You would easily get tired of your chosen field of study if you do not have any other hobbies or interests to keep you distracted.

Any field of study, whether it is art, business, or science, would get repetitive and stressful over the course of four years.

With that, you need to have an equalizer that would help you distress when you start to give up or grow tired of your chosen field of study.

Conclusion

Choosing the right college is not that easy. Hopefully, we managed t make the process a lot easier for you. To quickly recap, here are some of the factors that you should consider when choosing the right school for your chosen field of study.

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Todd VanDuzer

Co-Founder & CEO at Student-Tutor
Hello! My name is Todd. I help students design the life of their dreams by ensuring college, scholarship, and career success! I am a former tutor for seven years, $85,000 scholarship recipient, Huffington Post contributor, lead SAT & ACT course developer, host of a career exploration podcast for teens, and have worked with thousands of students and parents to ensure a brighter future for the next generation. I invite you to join my next webinar to learn how to save thousands + set your teenager up for college, scholarship, and career success!
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