How To Choose a College
Last updated August 15, 2022
So you've explored your college options, built your college list, applied to schools, and have started to receive your acceptance letters. It's now time to pick which college you're going to attend! There are many things to take into consideration when choosing a college - here's some questions to ask yourself to narrow down your options and choose a great college for you!
What do you want to study?
While you can receive a high-quality education at both a 2-year and 4-year college, some of the programs between the two kinds of schools vary. Depending on what you want to study and what kind of career you want to pursue after receiving your Associate's or Bachelor's degree, one of the kinds of schools might work better for you.
For example, community colleges tend to have programs that focus on training or skill development (IT, nursing, computer science, etc.) that lead to a career. These programs typically last around 2 years - and you have an option to either transfer to a 4-year college (e.g. transferring to a Registered Nurse program at a 4-year college after completing a 2-year License Practical Nurse program at a community college), or enter the workforce with an Associate's degree.
On the other hand, 4-year colleges have broader majors, like Business, Marketing, Design, Medicine, Journalism, etc. These kinds of programs take longer to complete (around 4 years) because they're more in depth, and because 4-year colleges typically require students to take different kinds of electives and classes that aren't related to their major. 4-year colleges typically award undergraduate Bachelor's degrees upon graduating, which is a step higher than Associate's, due to the amount of credits taken. While students with Bachelor's and Associate's degrees can land great jobs after graduating, there might be more jobs available to a student who chose a broader area of study (e.g. Communications) rather than a person who chose a more specific skill or area of study (Culinary Arts).
Do you want to go to college close by?
Each state has a number of state colleges and universities and/or community colleges. These schools tend to be scattered across the state, so there is most likely one within 50 miles of your house. They are publicly funded schools, meaning they receive the majority of their funding from the state government budget. When budgets are tight, public schools might have less financial aid to offer, so the more competitive your application the better. The tuition at public colleges and universities tends to be fairly affordable.
Do you want to go to college farther away?
As you expand where you are looking, there are more choices! In addition to going to a public college in your state, you can go to a public college in another state (which is likely not as affordable) or to a private, non-profit college. Did you know some of the most popular schools in the country fall into the private category? Notre Dame, Duke, New York University, USC, Baylor, Vanderbilt, Brigham Young, and Stanford are just a few of the most popular private colleges. While private colleges tend to be far more expensive than public schools, private schools often offer larger financial aid packages because of private donors and large endowments. That means their net price is lower than many public colleges.
Do you want to go to a big school?
A big college – one with 7,500+ students – often has a wide variety of majors and courses, great facilities (think library, dorms, gyms) and state-of-the-art research programs. These are often called “universities”. Most universities will contain several smaller colleges (engineering, social work, business, etc.). For good or bad, it is easy to get lost at a big school – introductory classes often have more than 100 students enrolled. Students who do best at big schools like meeting lots of people, appreciate the thrill of getting lost in a crowd and are good at being able to speak up and take advantage of all the opportunities available. Remember, big schools can be private, non- profit (Harvard, Stanford, etc.) or public (Cal Berkeley, U of Ohio, etc.)
Do you want to go to a small school?
Small schools (often just called “colleges”) can be a great fit if you appreciate getting to know your professors and advisors, like smaller class sizes, and want to know people on campus. One downside of these kinds of schools is that they typically have less majors/areas of study. Most small schools are private, non profit colleges that have great financial aid options. These schools may have a special focus like music (e.g. Berklee College of Music), fashion (Fashion Institute of Technology) or even be single-gender (all girls schools include Wellesley College or Mount Holyoke).
Still need some help deciding? We highly recommend talking with a parent/guardian or trusted mentor about picking the best college for you. Having different perspectives can help you make the best decision for you. We're always here to help, too! For any college-related questions, text #Hello to 33-55-77 to talk with one of our college advisors!