Choosing a college or university is perhaps one of the most important life decisions you’ll ever make. After all, your choice of college can have an impact on many aspects of your life further down the line. It could have an effect on what sort of job you’re able to get, for example, and it may even influence the salary and other benefits you’ll attract once you graduate.
You’ll have to take into account several different factors when selecting a college. From considering your geographical preferences and how willing you are to move to thinking about your choice of subjects, there is plenty to keep your thoughts occupied. Here is a closer look at some of the top considerations to help you make this important decision.
It may seem like an odd place to start, but choosing a college is a deeply personal decision – and one that you should always try to make sure you’re going to be truly happy with as you’re likely to be there for four years or even longer.
This is where thinking about your personality comes into play. If you find the prospect of moving away from your home state or even your home town a challenge, for example, you’ll have to decide whether to take the risk or stick to the local community college or state university. Top-rated colleges in Buffalo or elsewhere may be appealing, but if you’re not from the area, making the move might be risky. Performing a “test run” and going away for a shorter period, perhaps to camp or on a volunteering project, can help you determine if this is the right path for you.
Range of subject choice
Once you’ve thought about how appropriate certain colleges might be in relation to your outlook on life, your priorities and your preferred geographical location, the next stage is to consider what courses match your educational skill set and future plans. Not all colleges offer every subject, and you may find that your preferred institution doesn’t provide your desired degree.
Even if the colleges on your shortlist do offer the degree you want to get, you may find that they don’t offer the exact concentrations that interest you. For example, history is offered at many higher education institutions, but one school may look mostly at the Middle Ages while others might have a more modern focus, such as the Cold War. It is a wise idea to get a breakdown of the classes available each semester and the areas of expertise of the current faculty before deciding. That way, you can be certain that you’ll find something stimulating and rewarding when you begin.
Quality of the institution
Determining the quality of an educational institution can be a fraught task. Perceived quality is unlikely to be too relevant for some subjects, especially those that require rigorous training leading to a specific employment outcome or those that are offered by very few schools. Checking out some of the main college rankings, such as the America’s Top Colleges List in Forbes, can provide some very helpful guidance. While it is best not to use this as the sole basis of your decision, it can help you to craft a shortlist and narrow your focus.
Look and feel
Before making a firm decision about which college you would like to attend, it can be helpful to visit the school in person and get a feel for the atmosphere. Making decisions based on aesthetics alone isn’t a wise move, but it is certainly true that the environment of a college can have an effect on how positively you experience it. If you find that you’re not very inspired by new buildings, for example, going to a campus that was recently constructed day after day might not be the best choice. Likewise, if you feel stifled by cloisters and old buildings, an Ivy League college that dates back centuries might not bring out the best in you.
Going to college is a big move for all those who do it – and that’s true whether you’re enrolling at the community college down the road or at a major institution hundreds of miles away. That’s why making sure you’ve chosen the right one is an essential task. By visiting the college you’re considering before deciding, assessing its quality and checking the subject matter on offer, you’ll be able to make the most informed decision possible about the right school for you.