Deciding where to go to college is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. How to choose a university entails a number of considerations. You want to find the college that best meets you priorities, in terms of academics, facilities, policies and other factors. Of course, your budget will play a significant role. Selecting the university that is the right match for you can result in a rewarding career. On the other hand, if you go to a school that does not meet your needs and inspire you to learn, you might get discouraged and drop out before earning a degree.
Begin by compiling a list of colleges in your area, as well as those elsewhere that you want to consider. If you are looking for a school close to home, your list will be shorter. You can save a lot of money by commuting to classes from your family home. However, many consider getting away from home part of the college experience. Staying in a a dorm involves living with different people, managing your money, and providing for yourself in terms of meals and other needs. You have to make choices and decisions not faced while living at home. The life skills you attain may be as valuable as the academic lessons.
Decide whether you want to consider small colleges, large universities or both. A college in a little town may offer smaller class sizes and a more personal environment. Major universities have more classes, facilities and activities.
Research which universities offer degree programs in the field that you plan to study. Consult the various college-rating schemes to see how the institutions on your list rank. Learn their tuition rates, fees, and cost of room of board. This step will likely eliminate some of the candidates. However, a seemingly expensive school may fit in your budget if it offers scholarships or other types of financial aid for which you are eligible.
Find out colleges’ requirements regarding ACT and SAT scores, to make sure you qualify. Consider class sizes and the faculty’s qualifications. If you are physically disabled, struggle with a learning disorder, or have emotional or social problems, see which schools offer the facilities and policies you require. Check out extracurricular activities. Some colleges feature an array of recreational facilities for students, while many offer clubs and programs for the arts and other interests. Academics are just part of the college experience. Make sure the school you choose provides enriching opportunities outside the classroom.
Find out about the academic performance of the students at a college, and the kinds of jobs that graduates have gotten in your field of interest. Learn about schools’ teaching methods, which may be traditional or alternative. You also may be interested in policies regarding grading, safety and campus security, discipline and other matters.
Don’t pay a lot of attention to a school’s reputation, whether good or bad. A college may not be right for you, even if it is considered prestigious. A bad reputation may be unfounded or misleading. Take with a grain of salt any advice offered by friends or family members. They may be basing their opinions on limited personal experience or anecdotal evidence. Find out for yourself.
Reading the information that colleges send you does not provide the whole picture. They spend a lot of money to produce slick brochures and other materials designed to entice you. View their publications and websites as critically as you would a television commercial.
Once you have reduced your list to a few colleges, start scheduling campus visits. Meet administrators and professors, and talk informally with students. Tour the classrooms, library, cafeteria, student-activities areas, dormitories and other facilities. Make sure the information technology is up-to-date. Sit in on some classes to get a feel for what it would be like to attend the college. Try to determine whether it is a place where you will feel secure, happy and eager to learn. Get a sense of the social and political climate on campus. It’s a good idea to take friends or family members with you on the tour, so you can benefit from their perspectives.
Knowing how to choose a university is a complex matter. There are myriad factors to ponder, based on your needs and budget. Start your search early, with an eye on colleges’ deadlines for admissions and student-housing applications.
You will need to set your priorities, because some compromises are inevitable. If you accurately assess your requirements, and thoroughly consider the universities that fit the bill, you have a good chance of finding the right place for a rewarding post-secondary learning experience.