Choosing Colleges to Attend

May 14, 2012

Week 2: Choosing Colleges to Attend

We previously talked about looking at careers which led you to a major for college.  This is a good first step in starting a college plan. Now that you have a major or maybe a few that you’re interested in, you can now look at colleges to attend. As you search your colleges of choice make sure they offer the major that you have elected to pursue.  You want to see what courses the college offers and the time it takes to complete your major. Many times you will find that a specific field of study can require more than the expected 4 years. Look at all the regional schools that offer your major because there can be schools that can shorten your college stay by offering summer classes at a reduced rate to accelerate your graduation. There are also schools that will offer monetary discounts if you take over four years to get your undergraduate degree.

When you look at colleges to attend with your major there are other factors that will be important to you. These are some of the characteristics you need to consider as you make your choice of colleges.

·         Cost, does the college fit your budget?

·         Admissions Selectivity, what is the college’s difficulty of admission and can you get in? What type of competitiveness are you’re looking for or are you interested in exploring your interests?

·         Public-Private or Affiliation, The difference between public and private schools currently means a lot when we discuss financial aid and acceptance.

·         Geographic Location, is the school in the area of the country that you want to eventually work in?  Is it in a rural or urban area?

·         Enrollment, what is the average class size, total population of the school and student to professor ratio?

·         Types of Student, what is the makeup of the school? Is it diverse, liberal, conservative, religious, sports or arts centered, do students live on or off campus and do you share some of the same interests?

·         Special Programs, does the school offer programs that enhance your major or interests?

·         Services for Students with Disabilities, Does the school offer the most current or adequate programs to over come your handicap?

·         Sports, Are you looking for the college sports experience as a participant or fan?

I suggest that you think about what would make you happy about a school and then look at similar schools.  As you create your school list it should have about 9 to 14 schools in it. Over the last few years, we have found that the right number of schools to make application to is now nine. The old answer was 6 (2-safety schools, 2-that you should get into, 2-reach or dream schools). As the economy worsened attendance of colleges have increased and so has the difficulty to get in because of the competition. We are now seeing very good students not being accepted into schools that they should have easily gotten into. There are other advantages in applying to nine schools that effect financial aid being offered and your ability to negotiate the final aid package.

Once you are happy with your list you need to visit a few schools to see if they do have the characteristics that you are looking for. You can see if the items you originally thought were important really do factor into your final choice of a college to attend. When I have interviewed students about their visits, they tell me that sometimes they knew that a school was or wasn’t for them in about 10 minutes of their visit. Now, not everyone had that experience but as you visit a few schools you will be able to zero in on the things about a school that appeals to you. You will be able to modify your list as you visit your schools. The visit is important since is impossible to really tell what a  school looks and feels like. You cannot make that decision just by looking on the website of the college. Remember that these schools are in the business of filling all their freshmen openings at their college and they are good at this. We will discuss visits a little more in detail and offer you a plan for a successful college visit.

Picking the school to attend is the most important decision for many reasons. The biggest mistake students make is picking the wrong school for the wrong reason. Because of this we will get into more detail about the characteristics of colleges in the next step.

Please leave a comment or ask a question and I will be happy to respond.

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