Choosing the right college is a task that is filled with stress and frustration for students and parents alike. There are so many factors that enter into the decision making process. For specialty educations, like medical school, only certain colleges can accommodate the academic needs of the student. Major aside, there are other factors such as cost, geographic location, and others that complicate the selection process. Here are 5 keys to help you choose the right college.
Rank and Select Schools
We can’t all go to Harvard or Yale even though we might like to. Start by identifying 2 or 3 schools that would be considered “dream colleges.” These would be the most prestigious and difficult to get into. Next, pick 2 or 3 colleges that would provide the education desired and would be acceptable to attend. Finally, pick 2 or 3 colleges that are safety net schools where entrance is a sure thing. Get references from counselors, teachers, family, friends, and parents. Look into the programs offered and how well they match the goals of the student.
Understand the Social Climate of the College
If sororities and fraternities are an important facet of the college experience, look for those with strong Greek ties. Otherwise, schools with a strong presence of the Greek traditions may seem overbearing. Find out what social activities are available, what students do on weekends, and how far away the closest major city is. What clubs and activities will round out the academic life of the student?
Look Into the Living Spaces
If going to college means leaving home, then accommodations will be an important aspect of college life. Dorms, apartments, and shared residences are all viable options. There is life outside of class and the space that is called home must be a haven of sorts and fit in the budget.
View the College Brochure Skeptically
Colleges make money when students attend. Their brochures are designed to lure prospective students to their campus. Photos are taken at optimal times of the year and may not be a true representation of everyday life. Take these with a grain of salt. Visit the campus several times a year if possible before enrolling.
Most people plan for college. Still, the cost can be more than anticipated. Complete the FAFSA and turn it in in time for the school to help you find appropriate financing, if needed. There are many grants and scholarships that can help offset costs. The financial aid office of each college can help prepare you for the costs of completing a degree and in finding ways to pay for it.