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. Ashford University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.A. - Education
      • MA-Psychology
      • MS-Criminal Justice
      • MBA - Media Management
      • MBA
      • MA/Education - School Leadership in the 21st Century
    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Journalism and Mass Communication
      • B.A. - Psychology
      • BA/Education Studies
      • B.A. - Business Admin
      • B.A. - Communication Studies
      • B.A. - Liberal Arts
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts - Early Childhood Education
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Teaching and Learning
      • Master of Project Management
      • Master of Finance
      • Master of Professional Accounting
      • Master - Information Technology Management
      • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Communication
      • BS - Human Services
      • BS - Accounting
      • BS - Project Management
      • BS - Marketing
      • Undergraduate Specialization - Criminal Forensics
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate - Human Resource Management
      • Undergraduate Certificate - Project Management
      • Graduate Specialization - Accounting
      • Graduate Certificate - Cyber Security
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA
      • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: BS Mgmt. & HR
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Mgmt & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA: Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Project Management
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Business Management: Business Admin Concentration
      • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
      • B.S. - Business Management: Entrepreneurial Studies Concentration
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Security Technology Concentration
      • B.S. - Business Management: International Business Concentration
      • Bachelor: Health Care Management
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Business Management
      • Associate of Science - Business Studies
      • Associate: Health Information Management
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      • Associate of Science - Accounting
    Certificate
      • Diploma: Medical Office Admin
      • Diploma: Medical Assisting
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      • Networking Systems Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Concordia University Portland

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctorate of Education - Educational Administration
      • Doctorate of Education - Teacher Leadership
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      • Ed.D. Professional Leadership, Inquiry, and Transformation
    Master's
      • Master of Education - Curriculum & Instruction: Leadership
      • M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction - Online Teaching and Learning
      • M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction - STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math)
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Methods & Curriculum
      • Master of Science - Common Core State Standards
      • M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction - Early Childhood Education
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • DBA - Management
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
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    Master's
      • M.S. Psychology with an Emphasis in Gerontology
      • M.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Human Factors
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
      • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
      • MS in Psychology: General Psychology
      • M.B.A. with an Emphasis in Project Management
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
      • BS in Applied Management
      • BS in Psychology
      • B.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Performance and Sports Psychology
      • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
      • BS in Accounting
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate of Completion in GeroPsychology
      • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Industrial and Organizational Psychology
      • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Forensic Psychology
      • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Health Psychology
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      • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Life Coaching
  • Campus and Online Programs
    6. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science - Film Production
      • M.S. - Entertainment Business
      • M.S. - New Media Journalism
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    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science - Software Development
      • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)
      • BS - Creative Writing for Entertainment (Campus)
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      • BS - Mobile Development (Campus)
    Certificate
      • Cert - English As A Second Language (Campus)
      • Cert - Instructional Design and Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Communication
      • Master of Liberal Arts
      • Master of Arts in Science Writing
      • Master of Science in Applied Economics
      • Master of Science in Geographic Information Systems
      • Master of Science in Bioinformatics
    Certificate
      • Certificate in Government Analytics
      • Post-Bachelor's Certificate in Applied Research for Communication
      • MS in Food Safety Regulation
      • Certificate in Science Writing
      • Certificate in Science, Technology, and International Security Studies
      • Post-Master's Certificate in Sequence Analysis and Genomics
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor - Management - Criminal Justice
      • Doctorate: Computer Science
      • Doctorate - Computer Science: Information Assurance (Executive Format)
      • Doctor of Management - Graduate Level Instructional Practices
      • Doctorate: C.S. - Enterprise Information Systems
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    Master's
      • Master of Science in Computer Science
      • Master: Computer Science - Database Systems
      • Master of Business Admin
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    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Psychology
      • BS - Criminal Justice
      • B.S. - Psychology - Organizational Behavior
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      • BS - Nursing (RN to BSN completion)
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    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Business Administration
  • Campus and Online Programs
    9. Everest

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Business
      • Dental Assistant
      • Medical Administrative Assistant
      • Medical Assistant
      • Pharmacy Technician
      • Practical Nursing
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Regent University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
      • Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership
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      • Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership - Individualized
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Global Consulting
    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Communication
      • Master of Arts in Communication - Political Communication
      • Master of Arts in Communication - Strategic Communication
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      • Master of Arts in Journalism
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    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Applied Science in Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Journalism
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Rhetoric and Public Culture
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Strategic Communication
      • Bachelor of Arts in English - Communication

Featured Schools

Ashford University

  • M.A. - Education
  • B.A. - Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Associate of Arts - Early Childhood Education

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Teaching and Learning
  • BS - Communication
  • Graduate Certificate - Human Resource Management

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA
  • B.S. - Business Management: Business Admin Concentration
  • Associate of Science - Business Management
  • Diploma: Medical Office Admin

What is your highest level of education?

Concordia University Portland

  • Doctorate of Education - Educational Administration
  • Doctorate of Education - Teacher Leadership
  • Master of Education - Curriculum & Instruction: Leadership
  • M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction - Online Teaching and Learning

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • DBA - Management
  • M.S. Psychology with an Emphasis in Gerontology
  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
  • Graduate Certificate of Completion in GeroPsychology

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • Master of Science - Film Production
  • Bachelor of Science - Software Development
  • Cert - English As A Second Language (Campus)

What is your highest level of education?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Arts in Communication
  • Master of Liberal Arts
  • Certificate in Government Analytics
  • Post-Bachelor's Certificate in Applied Research for Communication

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor - Management - Criminal Justice
  • Master of Science in Computer Science
  • B.S. - Psychology
  • Associate of Science in Business Administration

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