The Basics of Choosing A College

Do you strive to attend an ivy league or other respected school to impress others and receive a first-class education? It is important to consider a variety of factors, not just education, when selecting a school. Many people consider social, economic, and geographic factors before committing to attend a certain school.

Non-education related aspects unique to a college can be as vital to your future career as the actual education you receive. Once you've determined what you are looking for in a college, you can narrow the number of colleges you are considering.

Identifying basic college criteria
Beginning your search for a college to attend will be an easier process after determining your most important factors first. Every person is unique, so what you are looking for in a college might greatly differ from what your peers are looking for. For example, many people want to attend a college far away from their home towns, while other people prefer to stay close to home. Students also differ on such factors as tuition costs, availability of extra-curricular activities, and whether they prefer to attend a private or public college. If you can narrow what you're looking for in a school, it will make it easier to determine your ideal school.

The type of academic programs offered by a school is a very important factor, but the geographic location is also something that must be considered. Many people prefer to study at colleges located in big cities or warm climates. Likewise, many young adults want the opportunity to learn and grow far from home, while many prefer to remain near their hometowns.

When selecting a college, it's also important to determine the type of surroundings you'd prefer to live near. For example, many people would prefer to live in a trendy urban area with numerous nightclubs rather than in a rural setting. Colleges are located in the largest cities, such as New York, and small rural cities, such as Corvallis, OR.

Young adults who grew up in suburban communities often prefer to move to big cities to attend college. However, many young adults find it difficult to live away from shopping malls and other services available in suburban areas. These are just a few factors students should consider before moving to a new city or setting.

Students also need to determine whether they prefer to study at schools with large or small student enrollments. Many private colleges have small student bodies while public universities often have student bodies over 30,000 students. The following are factors to consider:

  • Was the student body at your high school large or small?
  • Is your hometown a small town or large city?
  • Do you prefer large or small crowds?
It's also important to consider whether you want to study on a campus where classes are spread far apart or close together. Large public universities usually have campuses sprawled across a large geographic area, and small private colleges usually have small campuses. Class sizes at small schools are usually smaller and more personalized.

Although the focus of every college and university is to provide students with good educations, each educational institution has unique characteristics. The following are characteristics that differentiate colleges and universities:

  • Some colleges are known for their research facilities, while others focus more on classroom instruction
  • Many schools have specialized programs
  • Some colleges offer coed dorms
  • Certain colleges are owned by religious organizations
Many schools also offer part-time programs to cater to students with full-time jobs. Students should also learn more about resources provided by schools, especially if they struggle with learning or other disabilities.

Cost, scholarships, and financial aid
Attending college can be very expensive, so cost must be a consideration when selecting a school. The cost to attend a private or public school can vary significantly. However, most schools offer scholarships and work-study assistance and federal grants and subsidized loans are available for students. Students who excel in extra-curricular activities can also qualify for scholarships.

Since state-funded colleges and universities are subsidized by public money, tuition is usually more expensive at private schools. However, students attending schools in states they are not residents of pay tuition rates similar to private schools. Students interested in attending expensive private schools can take advantage of financial assistance programs provided by individual schools.

Students must also consider how much their room and board, transportation, and other expenses will cost before selecting a school. Students should never rule out a particular school because of financial reasons until they learn about a school's financial aid programs.

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