Choosing A College: It’s About More Than Just Rankings


It’s easy, in the whirlwind that is the college application season, for you to get caught up in one thing: What’s the highest-ranked school I can get into? The prevalence of rankings systems and methodologies has made it so that college applicants often pay much more attention to where a college places on a list, rather than where it places in their best interest. It’s important, though, to remember that there are other very important points that you should consider as you make your final school selections.

 

Location

There is certainly more to a college campus than merely the school grounds. The city where a college or university is located has a huge impact on the overall atmosphere of the school, as well as the resources available to it. You need to consider where you would be happiest living for four years: Do you prefer a small town? Can you handle a big city? And what about weather: Will you hate icy cold winters? Do you need sunshine to be happy?

Cost

Although this aspect seems to be relegated mostly to your parents, you should consider it as well, particularly since you’ll likely be the one paying back the student loans after graduation. What level of debt are you comfortable incurring? Make sure to talk to your parents about budgeting and finances, in order to start off college on the right monetary foot.

Academics

What do you want to major in? Is the college you’ve decided on known for a program in that field? Often, students assume that colleges will have the program they are interested in, only to arrive and find they have to come up with a whole new academic game plan due to limitations in their university’s academic offerings. Make sure you double-check that your heart’s desire is on the curriculum!

Future Career Aspirations

Make sure you research your school’s job placement assistance within your chosen professional field. Granted, it is likely that you’ll change your mind regarding a career path once you’re in school, but you should at least ensure that your initial employment goals can be met through the college of your choice.

Extracurricular Opportunities And Interests

If you have very specific extracurricular requirements (radio station, particular philanthropic pursuits, acting workshops), researching their availability (or your ability to create new student groups and programs) is a must.

Work And Internship Opportunities

Having employment—whether paid or unpaid—while in school, is essential for many students. This is particularly true of students who need to be on work-study programs as part of their financial aid strategy. Look into what kind of employment opportunities and internship programs are offered by the college you are considering.

Personal Skills Sets And Resources

What are you good at? What will you need help in? Does the school have the resources to encourage the positive attributes, and assist with what you need?

Ultimately, the most important attribute a college should have is the ability to make you happy and fulfilled for the four years you’re there. By taking the time to go beyond the numbers and really delve into what a school offers, you can make sure that you’re making the best, most felicitous choice—and one that you’ll be proud to look back on even years after you’ve received your college diploma.
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