There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. That means lots of options—and difficult decisions to make! With so many options, how do you choose a college?
This blog is here to help you make these challenging decisions and narrow down your choices!
Apply to at least seven colleges
The first step in choosing a college is to know your options and create some competition for your skills. Make sure you apply to at least seven colleges so that you can find the best-fit college for you—at the lowest cost.
If you only apply to one or two colleges, you might miss the chance to negotiate for a bigger scholarship or the opportunity to find the right college for you!
Method 1 – Choosing by Type of School:
As you make your college list, be sure to include schools from each of these categories:
- Two universities
- Two state colleges
- Two private colleges
- One community college
Having variety in the types of colleges and universities that you apply to can help you learn more about each type of school and find the right destination for you.
Method 2 – Choosing by Acceptance Rate and Cost:
- Two dream schools: These are schools you might not get into or might be too expensive. But it never hurts to apply and find out!
- Two safety schools: These are two schools you are confident you will be able to get into and fit within your price range.
- Three money schools: These are schools that offer amazing scholarships and would make it easy to graduate with little or no student loan debt.
Now that you have your initial list put together, one way or another, it’s time to ask the tough questions!
Ask the Tough Questions
Will it be affordable?
Many students have big dreams about where they want to attend, without considering the price. Make sure that the colleges you’re considering are in the ballpark of what you can afford so that you can avoid spending years paying off expensive student loans. No one likes to still be paying for college past their 35th birthday! Have a conversation with your parents to break down the costs of college, taking into account what financial or merit-based aid you might receive.
It doesn’t hurt to have some dream schools on your list, but make sure you’ve also added options that will be more affordable.
What scholarships are available?
Start by looking at the school website to see if they have a list of the scholarships available. But then also talk directly to their admission department. This can be a great way to narrow down your list—or make your final decision.
Where is the college located?
Where would you like to attend college? Most students attend college within a one-hour drive of where they live. This isn’t a bad thing, but make sure you are invested on campus, not heading home every weekend to spend time with high school friends. You want to get the most out of your college experience, so dive in, expand your friend group, and use this as an opportunity to grow.
When it comes to college location, the Midwest is typically the cheapest, but there are also some great value schools in other parts of the country. Think about where you want to attend and consider that factor when you make your choices.
Can you participate in your main extracurricular?
Many students retire from their main extracurricular when they head to college. This doesn’t have to be the case. If you love playing a sport, look into intramural sports at large schools or even look at smaller colleges so you don’t have to hang up the cleats! If you don’t plan to continue some of the same activities you did in high school, make sure you pick something new to meaningfully participate in. The students who get the most out of their college experience are the ones who are engaged on campus in different ways.
How large of a school do you want?
A big deciding factor in your college choice is the size of the student population. This typically translates into class size. A good question to ask is, “how many students do I want in my freshman English class?”
If you want less than twenty, you need to be looking at a smaller college. However, there are options for small classes at larger universities. Look into the Honors college or learning communities that the school offers to see if there’s a way to get into smaller classes, even at larger universities. Typically, smaller classes translates into more engagement. When you actively participate in your classes and get to know your professors, you’re more likely to learn and succeed.
What might your major be?
While you don’t need to decide your major before you head to college, it’s important to make sure that the college you attend offers the majors you’re considering. If you want to study a more-specific field that the college doesn’t offer, it might mean you need to cross the school off your list. Make sure you leave yourself open to the possibilities of what you might learn in your first year at college. Don’t close yourself off from the opportunities by not double-checking the majors your potential college offers.
What is the four-year graduation rate?
The four-year graduation rate is an indicator of the motivation of the student body at a potential college or university. You want to make sure the study body is a reflection of your hard work and drive! You become like the people you surround yourself with, so make sure you choose a college that is full of students who are focused, engaged, and motivated.
Take Advantage of College Visits and College Fairs
Now that you have your list together, learn more about the colleges. This might mean taking a college tour to visit a few schools or asking good questions to the rep at a college fair. Make sure you show your interest and learn as much as you can about the student body, the classes, the professors, and the college experience.
So how do you choose a college? Once you have all the facts, it’s about finding the best-fit college for you. Choose a college that will help you grow, without leaving you with years of burdening student debt. Learn more about our College Admissions Counseling to see how we can help you get into the perfect college for you at the right price.