Choosing a College

About this article
Even before you start filling out applications, you need to find the college that fits you. This article provides information on critiquing colleges and making sure they fit your needs.
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There are several characteristics you should consider when deciding which colleges to apply to:

  1. Academic Programs
  2. Campus Life
  3. Cost
  4. Diversity
  5. Location
  6. Retention and Graduation Rates
  7. Size of Student Body

When considering these factors, it's necessary to order them according to your personal preferences. Some students may find the size of the student body more important than diversity while other students may feel the opposite way. Prioritizing may help you gather your feelings about each campus better.

Size of the Student Body

The size of the student body affects you in many ways - from type of majors offered to the amount of personal attention each student receives. Naturally, a school with 7,000 or fewer students will have smaller class sizes, meaning the possibility to have more personal interaction with the professor. However, this same school may have a small library or a limited amount of extracurricular possibilities.

If you choose a school with 25,000 students or more, these features will generally be just the opposite. Keep in mind that whatever college you choose, look into the number of students in your particular field of interest. For example, a school with 25,000 students may only have 100 of those students in your discipline. Therefore, you may be able to have access to smaller classes when you begin working on your major-required coursework.

Location

Location is also important because you will be spending several years in the area. Be sure to choose a college with surroundings that are comfortable to you. Are friends and family important to you? Then you may want to check out local colleges or colleges in nearby cities. Would you rather be in a completely different environment, so you can have new experiences? Then perhaps getting out of your 'comfort zone' and going to a college further away in another city or even another state would be a good pick. When you visit a campus, make notes about everything you liked or disliked about the area. This way you can gauge which location best meets your needs.

Academic Programs

The available academic programs at a college are the subjects and programs that you will be able to choose from when you apply. If you have already chosen a field or career, research what schools have programs that involve that discipline. You could do some research by going online to Web sites such as U.S. News, www.usnews.com. You could talk to a guidance counselor, an admissions representative or to friends or family.

If you have no idea what type of discipline you want to pursue, you should probably consider an institution that offers many different types of programs. You may also want to find a college that will allow you to enter 'undecided,' meaning you have not declared a major. By declaring undecided, you have time to choose your major when you enter college.

Campus Life

Campus life is worth thinking about. Your won't spend all of your time studying, so when you have some time off what are you going to do with it? Learn what you can about the campus and community. What activities are available your college and community offer? What type of sports or extracurricular activities could you participate in? Is there an ethnic or religious group you can take part in? Are there sororities and fraternities? What kind of restaurants are around campus?

Cost

For many people, cost is a big factor in choosing a college or university. Before you stress about costs, remember that most colleges offer financial aid to qualifying students. There are also other financial aid options that are not affiliated with the school. For financial aid options at the school, visit with a financial aid advisor. An advisor can help you find information on scholarships, grants, loans and work-study programs.

The cost of tuition is not the only financial concern to keep in mind. You may also want to check the cost of living in the area because you may want to live off campus after your first few years. There are also other living and academic expenses to consider.

Diversity

Diversity is another feature of campus life that colleges or universities try to maintain. Try to find a college or university that embraces students of different ethnic and religious backgrounds. By attending a school with well-balanced diversity, you will have the opportunity to learn things outside of the classroom and leave college with an enlightened perspective.

Retention and Graduation Rates

Retention and graduation rates are helpful in measuring a school's quality and the satisfaction of its students. Find out the percentage of students who return after their first year and the percentage of those students who remain to graduate. Good rates of retention and graduation can be indicators that responsible academic, financial and social support systems exist for students. It can also allow you to gauge how long it might take to complete your degree.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis
      • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
      • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorder
    Certificate
      • Applied Behavior Analysis Certificate
      • Autism Spectrum Disorder Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Finance
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
      • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate
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    3. Purdue University

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      • Master of Science in Communication
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    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate in Strategic Communication Management
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    4. American University

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      • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
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    5. Judson University

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    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership Online
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      • Bachelor of Arts in Human Services Online
      • Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership Online
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts
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    6. Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Health and Human Services Administration
      • Master of Arts in Human Resource Management
      • Master of Arts in International Development
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      • Master of Arts in Special Education
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    Bachelor's
      • RN to Bachelors of Science in Nursing
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    Master's
      • MSHS in Health Care Quality
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    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate in Health Care Quality
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      • MSCJ: Law
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    10. Johns Hopkins University

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Featured Schools

George Mason University

  • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
  • Applied Behavior Analysis Certificate
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder Certificate

What is your highest level of education?

Georgetown University

  • Master of Science in Finance
  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate

What is your highest level of education completed?

Purdue University

  • Master of Science in Communication
  • Master of Science in Education in Special Education
  • Graduate Certificate in Strategic Communication Management

What is your highest level of education?

American University

  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration
  • Graduate Certificate in Agile Project Management
  • Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Analytics and Management

What is your highest level of education?

Judson University

  • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership Online
  • Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology Online
  • Associate of Arts

What is your highest level of education completed?

Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

  • Master of Arts in Health and Human Services Administration
  • Master of Arts in Human Resource Management
  • RN to Bachelors of Science in Nursing

What is your highest level of education completed?

The George Washington University

  • MSHS in Health Care Quality
  • Masters in Interdisciplinary Secondary Transition Services
  • Graduate Certificate in Health Care Quality
  • Graduate Certificate in Multimedia Development

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
  • MSCJ: Law
  • Undergraduate in Legal Studies
  • AASBA in Business
  • Psychology

Which subject are you interested in?