Choosing a college is not a simple task
With so many schools that have similar academic offerings and ratings, what should you look for? Here are some factors outside of the college degree program you need that could help you determine which school is best for your needs.
Social opportunities, including clubs, organizations, sororities, and fraternities, are a huge part of the college experience. Whether you find a religious group that lines up with your beliefs, an intramural sports team or something even more unique, look for groups that give you the chance to be involved with the social side of campus life. After all, college is a time when you can make lifelong friends. Campus life should be a part of your evaluation.
- Consider the campus location vs. online learning
Consider if you will be taking classes at the campus. Does it have a convenient commute to your home if you aren’t living on campus? Are you willing to make that trek regularly for visits? Do you need to go home frequently? On the other hand, if you are too close, will you be tempted to go home too frequently, or have your parents stop by more often than you really need?
As you look at the layout of the campus, consider how you will get around. Can you walk from your campus to your classrooms easily? Will you need a car? Is the layout confusing or sensible? You don’t want to find it difficult to get to your classes because ditching class is wasting your college education.
Maybe you have a full-time job and you’re busy with life’s responsibilities and getting to a classroom is difficult for your schedule. Then online learning may be right for you. Find out if the school you are considering has online learning capabilities and online support. In today’s technology-driven world, earning an online degree is becoming more and more popular amongst students who need an education that can fit into their busy schedule.
Figuring out how you are going to pay for college is already a stressful situation. But the majority of your decision eventually comes down to how affordable the school is. Making sure that you have considered all variables will help you make a confident decision that the school you pick is the best choice for you and your family. Things to consider when you look at the financial aid process should be:
- What are the tuition and fees?
- Am I eligible to receive federal financial aid?
- What other benefits are out there (scholarships or tuition discounts)?
- Is the financial aid process straight-forward and easy to understand?
- Check the quality of the professors
Your college experience is, ultimately, about education. Take the time to learn more about the professors to see what the quality of the education will be. Consider sitting in on a class or two during your college visit to see if the professors have a good teaching method as well. Quality professors make for quality education and provide a better opportunity to prepare you for your next job.
- Inspect the housing options
From residence halls to campus townhouses, the housing options on a college campus can be quite varied. Look at several of these, and make sure there is at least one you feel comfortable with. After all, you need to feel safe and at home while you are at school. Consider factors like the number of roommates you will have, whether or not the dorms are co-ed, off-campus housing options and the amenities you will need.
As you can see, choosing a college is about more than just looking at the educational programming. Take the time to get to know the offerings at the schools on your short list, but also look at these other non-academic factors. When you weigh all of the options, the right school should be easy to spot.