Choosing a College

Although academic considerations should be the primary factor in college selection, there must be a balance between all factors: academic, social, personal, family and financial, etc. Read the following considerations and weigh their importance to you.

Ideally, you should apply to as many schools as you wish and to any school in which you are seriously interested. At the same time that you are choosing schools based on your priorities, be careful not to limit yourself according to geographic or financial factors. These may be the determining factors that affect your final decision, but the preliminary search should be open.

Personal Characteristics to consider

  • How important are existing friendships with peers going to a specific college? Will this influence your decision?
  • Family tradition. Did everyone in your family attend the same college? What are your family’s expectations?
  • What degree of self-discipline and independence is required of you?
  • Area of the country in which the school is located. Factors include: proximity to home, the climate, and is it located in an urban, suburban or rural area? How does the cost of living differ from our area?
  • Is the university coed or single-sex?
  • What is the extent of campus facilities - social, personal, and academic?
  • What is the size of the university?
  • What personal services does the college offer (i.e., career placement and counseling, tutoring, health center, etc)?
  • What is the make up of the student body? Is the campus culturally diverse? How diverse? From where do the majority of students come? How many men are on campus? How many women? Will I feel comfortable in the mix?
  • What is the academic atmosphere on campus? What is the social atmosphere on campus? Visit the Student Union, cafeteria and other gathering areas to observe students.

Academic Considerations

  • Are there adequate facilities (laboratories, art studios, libraries, etc.) for the department of your major interest and are these facilities up-to-date?
  • What is the typical class size for freshmen classes? For an upperclassman? How many large classes (100+ students) are typically encountered in a four-year period? Do the larger classes break into smaller discussion classes?
  • What percentage of courses is taught by teaching assistants or graduate assistants?
  • Are library facilities sufficient? What are the hours for general student use? Is there access for undergraduate students to the law library, medical school library, specialty department libraries, etc.?
  • Is the institution considered a research school? Are there research opportunities for undergraduates?
  • Is Internet access available in each dorm room? Are computers widely available for student use? Is this a wireless campus?
  • Are there any programs or facilities that are unique to their schools? Study abroad programs? Observatories? Community-involvement organizations? Co-op opportunities or other directed internship or practical work experiences that are offered through the university?
  • What percentages of students go on to pursue post-graduate study? Where do they go?
  • Do you know what you want to major in? Does the school being considered have a program in that field? Is the curriculum strong? Is it rigid or flexible? What are last year’s graduates in that field doing this year?
  • What are the college's admission standards? Is it an open, selective, or highly selective admissions college?
  • Is the university and program accredited?
  • Are there graduate and professional schools affiliated with the college or university?
  • Are there special academic programs available (i.e., honors program, remedial)?
  • What are the financial aid and scholarship opportunities? Are there on campus employment opportunities? How do students seek out these opportunities?
  • Are advanced standing tests accepted (i.e. Advanced Placement)? Does the university have its own placement testing?
  • How diverse are the subject offerings?
  • How is the academic year divided? (i.e., two semesters, four quarters, winter mini-semester, summer sessions)
  • What is the college's reputation?
  • What cultural activities does the school have to offer?
  • Are credits transferable to other universitites?
  • What is the availability of classes?
  • How accessible are the professors? What is the overall relationship between students, faculty members, and administrators?
  • What is the typical number of years completed to earn a degree?
  • What is the freshmen retention rate –or, how many freshmen come back as sophomores?

Other Considerations

  • Do students have access to weight training rooms, basketball courts, or other recreational facilities? If so, when were these facilities last updated? (If interested, ask similar questions regarding dark rooms, art studios, science labs, broadcast studios, practice rooms, performing arts facilities, etc.)
  • How near is the campus to the local community? Are drug stores, restaurants, hospitals, cultural and religious centers, laundry mats and shopping facilities convenient? Does the university offer shuttle service to these places?
  • What are the residence halls like? How many students are in each room or suite? Community bathroom or suite-style bathroom available? Are there study facilities and computer labs in the residence halls? Quiet hours? Laundry facilities?
  • Are freshman students guaranteed space in residence halls? Are first year students required to live on campus?
  • Are residence halls co-ed or single-sex facilities? Where are residence halls located on campus?
  • Where are the dining facilities located? Are students required to buy meal cards? How many meals are served per day?
  • What are the most popular student life activities? Which student organizations, clubs, and special interest groups are available to students?
  • Are fraternities and sororities on campus? If so, what percentage of the student population is involved in Greek life? What effect do these organizations have on student life?
  • What cultural and entertainment activities are available on or near campus? Are speakers, actors, and performances brought to the campus?
  • Is ROTC available?
  • What is the comprehensive cost of attendance per year (tuition, travel, books, fees, room and board)?
  • Is there a job placement service for graduates? Do potential employers appear on campus? Is there a career-planning center? What other help is offered to students who are about to graduate?
  • How is security on campus?
  • Are there internships or mentor programs available in your field of interest?
  • How easy is it to get to campus from home? Consider proximity to airports, train stations, cabs, shuttle services, etc.