College is a time of self-discovery, intellectual adventure and social exposure — but not every school is right for every student. Preparing for higher education involves long-term saving, hard work and lots of research. When you are entering the final stretch of high school, the time has come to make a decision. Picking which university is the best fit is no easy task, so here is some help with what important factors you should consider when weighing college options.
Location is not just the key when it comes to buying real estate. When it comes to choosing a college, it’s a good idea to find one that feels like the right emotional and geographical fit. Think about how close (or far) you prefer to be from home and whether you like the bustle of a city, tranquillity of rural living or somewhere in between. It’s important to also think about the weather in each location in case you can’t stand a long winter or melt in the heat.
We all know college is expensive, so, for most people, cost is a major part of the decision. While a full ride to the perfect institution may seem like an impossible dream, it’s a good idea to look into state universities, scholarships, grants, financial aid and work-study opportunities. Calculate potential student loans for different schools and remember to include room and board when forming your budgets. The cost of college nowadays is staggering, so make sure you know what you’re getting into before you accept an admissions officer.
A good rule of thumb experts recommend is to avoid borrowing more than you expect to make as a salary in your first year out of college. Your student loans can have a major impact on your credit, which can delay your homebuying dreams or keep you from seizing other opportunities while you’re weighed down by debt. You can see how student loans impact your credit scores for free on Credit.com.
Think about how you felt in high school — did you feel smothered by how everyone knew each other or overwhelmed and lost in the masses? It’s a good idea to analyze the overall size of the school. This is where campus visits can be especially helpful in making the decision.
Another metric to look into is the student-to-faculty ratio to see how accessible professors will likely be. Your experience will be greatly shaped by what classrooms are like (large lecture halls or small discussion groups) and who is teaching you (teaching assistants vs. professors).
Consider the percentage of students who get a job right after graduating. Some schools have better access to internships, job placement programs, on-campus recruitment and more extensive, involved alumni networks.
Safety statistics are an important metric for students and their families. Research how protected students are from crimes and how the university police and security systems operate.
From on-campus dorms to study-abroad opportunities, greek life, meal plans, transportation, sports participation, party life, demographics, club and organization branches, there’s a lot going on at most college campuses. The school’s website can help, as can speaking to students, to get the best idea about how daily life at prospective schools match your personality and goals.
Accreditation & Quality
It can be a good idea to look at your school’s reputation in your intended study topic, in addition to overall. If you are not sure about your major, it’s a good idea to be sure there are plenty of programs with good reputations and extracurricular opportunities that could work.
Looking for a college that fits all your needs and desires may be difficult and overwhelming, but this is an important investment in your future. Pick the factors are most important to you and you can choose the college that’s right for you.
More on Student Loans:
- How Student Loans Can Impact Your Credit
- Can You Get Your Student Loans Forgiven?
- A Credit Guide for College Graduates