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How to Choose a College

Man holding laptop and sitting next backpack and books

If you are accepted to more than one college, congrats! Just one problem: you have to select which college you’ll ultimately attend.

You of course want to go to the best one, but what exactly makes a college “the best”?

There are several factors to consider and ways to narrow down your choice and have a great next four years of your life.

But here is one major consideration:

Know your goals.

People go to college for many different reasons. Knowing why you are going to college and what you hope to get out of the experience will help determine which college you should attend.

There are three main goals you can have when attending college (these are not mutually exclusive):

1. How should you choose a college if you have a specific career in mind?

Two professionals shaking hands

You are going to be a doctor, or a computer programmer, or a financial analyst (or whatever floats your boat).

You are going to college to gain the necessary experience with extracurricular career-related programs and an excellent education from the strongest professors in their fields.

You plan on networking with alumni, faculty, and peers to make inroads in your chosen field.

You are focused on this career path and you most likely have prepared for it during high school.

College recommendations:

  • Consider highly ranked departments related to your major instead of generally highly ranked colleges. (Ex: U of A may have a better computer science department but a lower overall rank than U of B.)

  • Cost of attendance should be a concern, but sometimes the price of admission is worth it; consider the faculty, your potential peers, and available resources. You want to feel inspired and do your absolute best work.

  • While you are clearly focused on the endgame--i.e., getting a job in your desired field--don’t overlook campus culture. Meaningful social connections are especially crucial at college.

2. How should you choose a college if you want a holistic education?

Drawing of a human brain

You aren’t sure which specific career you will have, but you do know your major.

In this case, you are mostly likely a liberal arts and humanities student; you are going to study English, or Russian literature, or history.

While your career path is not defined, you are incredibly passionate about what you’re studying and hope to learn as much as you can about the subject and any related subjects.

You take classes based on building all sides of your brain.

College recommendations:

  • Rankings and departments are important, but you should also select based on career-preparation services. For example, some humanities majors will supplement their studies with business foundations programs.

  • You should know what the job prospects are for your major and how the department helps students find employment. If your school lets you major in English literature, for example, but offers no advice or strategies on how to market the degree, then you may want to look elsewhere.

3. How should you choose a college if you want to learn more about yourself and your interests?

Hiker standing on the ridge of a mountain

You don’t really know if you will keep your major when you get to college and you’re not too sure what job you’ll have once you’re out of college.

For you, college is the time to “figure it all out” and also generally learn more about yourself.

You say that you want to study biology, but you may very well end up in marketing.

College recommendations:

  • Cost should be a major consideration. Since there is not a clear path, you should try to limit how much you spend, especially if you think that you’ll be attending college longer than the traditional four years.

  • Try to narrow down your interests and select a college that ranks highly for those interests. For example, if you’re pretty sure that you’ll be working in healthcare, then going to a technical college may not be the best idea.

  • Or, if you’re really not sure what interests you, you should choose a college that is generally good at everything so that you can have more freedom to choose a major and career path without sacrificing quality of education.

  • Extra-curricular organizations, while not a priority, should carry more weight in your decision.

What else should you consider when choosing a college?

Other than knowing your goals and selecting colleges based on those goals, here are some other recommendations for how to choose the college you attend:

Graphic of factors that will help you determine which college to attend

If you are still not sure which college to attend, consider getting advice from our seasoned college admissions consultants. Our staff will gladly help you weigh the many different factors and make you feel satisfied with your choice.

Juniors! Are you ready to apply to college? Need help? Check out our college admissions services and get a head-start on your applications this summer!

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