What are Some Considerations for Choosing a College?

Choosing a college can be a daunting experience, especially for younger individuals. For people with clear life goals, the task can be easier, but sometimes plans change in unexpected ways. Making a list of considerations to take into account when looking at colleges can make the task easier.

One of the first things to do when selecting a college is to decide what type of college to go to. Some students, for example, start out at a two year college to fulfill prerequisite requirements before going to a more expensive four year college. Four year colleges come in public and private varieties, and have a wide range of reputations. Other students may want to go to a trade or technical school to learn about a specific career such as firefighting, policing, hairdressing, or carpentry.

Having a clear life goal helps here: a student who wants to be a doctor, for example, will want to pick a reputable four year college with a strong biology program. A student who wants to pursue creative writing might study at a four year college which focuses on liberal arts. Whether it be anthropology or zoology, students should check to see that the major is offered, and what kind of reputation the college has. College rankings and the success of graduates are good indicators.


Student life is also important. The size of the college can be a major factor: smaller colleges tend to have smaller classes, and a more intimate student body. Large colleges can provide a sense of anonymity which is often welcome to students from small towns. Large colleges also tend to be more diverse, with a wide range of students from different cultural, religious, social, and economic back grounds. Location can also be a factor for student life, with inner city colleges having a very different feel from rural programs. Students who want to go to school far from home may also want to consider the geographic location of colleges they are interested in.

Many students also consider extracurricular activities and athletic programs. Most colleges have an assortment of outside of class activities available to students ranging from debate teams to sororities. Students who are interested in pursuing a particular activity or sport may want to investigate the offerings at the college. Tours of campuses can be very useful here, with most campus organizations welcoming prospective students so that they can get an idea of all of the offerings available at the college.

Cost should never be a deciding factor in going to college: for students who are determined, the money is out there. But students might want to consider how much student loan debt they want to incur, what kind of financial aid is available, and the overall cost of the college. All colleges have a financial aid office to assist current and prospective students with their financial needs, and usually the staff are available to answer questions and point students in the right direction for financial help.



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I am currently enrolled as a student at Arizona State University. This is my second round at going to college. When I graduated high school I had already lived on my own for a couple years. This had a profound effect on my choice of schools. I had no family support network, and no family funding. I had to rely strictly on financial aid. Further complicating matters was the fact that my parents refused to pay for any of my education; even though they made enough that I did not qualify for federal grants. I ended up getting accepted to all six schools I applied, but I could only afford to go to the one that gave me a full

academic scholarship (so I thought, I now realize that I could have taken out loans to attend some of the others). There was a catch; the scholarship required that I settle for a major that I did not want. It was a great opportunity, but both the school and the program were not the right fit for me. I ended up struggling to adjust (I spent holidays in motels, and used the computer lab for everything). After my first year I could not maintain the required 3.25 GPA. I ended up dropping out because I could not afford to continue. Now I am 28, studying sustainability, and I am about 2 years from graduating. I love the program that I am in, and I am going to a school that fits my needs as a non-traditional student. The lesson I learned from my failed college experience is that I should have made my goals realistic. I felt that I needed to go to school right away, instead of waiting until I was ready. In between my college years I ended up with a good job, great friends, and a new family. Now I have the support network, determination, and mental strength to succeed; plus I finally figured out what I want to do with my career. My best advice is; don't rush college. Learning is life long, and does not need to be crammed into the first twenty-two years of your life. I will still go to graduate school, my GPA is extremely high, and I am not much older than my peers; plus I was able to spend eight years traveling and enjoying life.

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