There are several characteristics you should consider when deciding which colleges to apply to:
- Academic Programs
- Campus Life
- Retention and Graduation Rates
- 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 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.
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 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?
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 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.