With so many choices available for higher education these days, it's easy for teens to become overwhelmed when researching colleges and universities. Here’s how to choose a college that’s right for you – and 5 important things to consider!
Selecting a college is a big decision.
From traditional on-campus learning to online classes, there's a number of factors for prospective students to keep in mind. A pros and cons list of top choices can be very helpful as students have to weigh their options very carefully throughout the selection process.
Things to consider when choosing a college.
One piece of general advice that applies to all students: try to avoid “locking yourself in” to one option. Getting accepted into your top choice is a wonderful achievement, but this doesn’t always happen. Make sure you apply to at least 3 colleges or universities – if not more!
Try to keep the following items in mind when beginning your college search:
1. Programs and majors. Many colleges and universities are renowned for particular fields of study. If you have a major or career path that you are interested in, we recommend researching schools that specialize in these areas and offer a variety of courses dedicated to that subject matter.
On the converse, if you haven't decided on a major yet, public schools and universities that offer a wealth of general education classes are an excellent option.
2. Financial availability. It's no secret that college can be expensive. With this in mind, it's important to consider your budget and financial assistance when deciding on a school. To confuse matters further, there are a number of factors that go into play when it comes to tuition costs.
For example, the vast majority of schools will charge less per unit for in-state residents. If you decide to go out-of-state for college, these added costs need to be considered. We really cannot stress this enough – it’s not uncommon for universities to charge double or more for out-of-state residents, so students may want to stay “local.”
Furthermore, there are several great options for student aid these days – from federal grants to private scholarships, as well as registration waivers, transportation assistance, and more. Community colleges are also a great choice for students looking to complete their first 2 years at a fraction of the cost.
- Tutor Doctor Tip: Want to learn more about federal aid, the FAFSA application process, and scholarship opportunities? Check it out in our guide! [coming soon]
3. Living situation. If you plan to live on campus, make sure you are accounting for room and board expenses. The cost of living in a dorm can be just as much as (or more than) the tuition itself.
Recent data shows that the yearly average room and board cost is $13,620 for private colleges and $11,950 for public colleges. And keep in mind, this doesn’t include the cost of tuition! For this reason, many students prefer to attend local colleges and commute to school while continuing to live at home.
4. Learning and class style preference. As we mentioned before, online colleges can be a great option for students (and adults) with busy schedules. Some students like online courses for general education classes, whereas other students may prefer traditional classroom lectures.
While we always recommend taking several classes on campus and meeting your professors in person to have the “true” college experience, some students may prefer to complete certain units off-campus.
When researching schools, make sure to have a look at what class formats are offered – many colleges, for instance, offer “short-term” classes that are compacted into smaller time frames. Others offer weekend or night classes. All of these factors are important to consider when making your choice of school!
5. Pace and convenience of learning. Relating to the previous point, everyone has different schedules and responsibilities. Keep in mind that a “four-year degree” does not necessarily have to be completed in four years!
Many students have work, family, or personal reasons for not being able to take a full load of classes. A rigid four-year course program might not be the best option for some students, and that’s perfectly fine!
Community colleges are always a great choice for students who wish to take classes at their own pace, or just want more time to explore higher education – perhaps take a few extra elective courses along the way! Whatever you decide, make sure your college path is consistent with your personal goals.
Making a college selection checklist.
Applying to a college is a big task that is best approached gradually. We encourage students to take their time researching schools, making a checklist and noting the important factors outlined above:
- Area of study.
- Housing and location.
- Learning style.
- Time frame.
Check out these other blog posts that feature more tips on how to prepare for higher education and choose a college that’s right for you!
College Prep Tips & Tricks
Improving Your College Experience