4 Things to Think About When Choosing a College

With all of the colleges to choose from around the world, making a final decision can be difficult. After all, the college you choose to study at will become the foundation of your career for years to come. When you consider both time and cost, it’s often one of the biggest investments that people make in their lifetimes. It’s also where you’ll be spending the next few years, so you’ll want to be confident that the college you pick is one where you’ll be happy.

Here are a few things to consider, as you narrow down your options:

Cost

The cost of college will vary from school to school, so this is an important consideration for many college students. If it’s a primary concern, one way to save money on tuition costs may be to attend an in-state public school, since out-of-state and private tuition costs are typically higher. Another way to save money may be to attend a community college for the first two years.

Don’t assume that a state school will be your least expensive option though. Depending on your specific financial situation, academic profile, and other talents, you may find that you qualify for more scholarships or aid at an out-of-state college or private university. Your best bet is to apply to a variety of schools so you have several options to compare when the award letters arrive.

Beyond college tuition, there are other cost considerations to keep in mind when making your selection. For instance, will certain choices require that you leave home and move out on your own? If so, what’s the cost of living in the different cities you’re considering? How about dorm room expenses? Will living on campus make it easier to be without a car, or is the college in a remote location? You’ll want to think of all the different expenses that come with your top choices, not just the cost of tuition.

Available Programs

Many college students don’t know what they want to major in initially, and some even change their minds along the way. The sooner you have an idea as to what you want to study, the better. Degrees and majors vary by school, and some colleges are known for specific programs. Ideally, you want to choose a school that’s known for offering a high-quality education in the degree you want to pursue. If you’re undecided about what you want to major in, consider focusing on schools with high job placement rates for graduates overall and a variety of available programs.

Class Sizes

According to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), the average community college classroom size ranges from 25-35 students. In lecture hall classes at universities, the average tends to range from 150-300 students per class. These are just estimates and will vary by school, but it’s good to think about the type of learning environment that works best for you.

Some students thrive in smaller classes because they want individualized attention. If this is important to you, you’ll want to research the average class size at the schools you’re considering. Keep in mind that some colleges will limit class size for all courses, while others may only offer certain courses that are capped at a small amount. Also consider learning options beyond class size, such as online classes, blended classes (courses that are both offered online, but also include face-to-face classroom meetings), independent study, and so on.

Location

Do you have your heart set on staying in your hometown, or leaving the area to attend college? Do you want an environment that’s bustling and lively, or do you prefer something more laid back? How about the weather – do you want warm weather year-round, or are you eager to embrace all four seasons? Would you rather walk everywhere and go without a car, or do you like the freedom of driving? What kind of nightlife or entertainment do you enjoy?

If you’re not certain what you want, make sure you visit a variety of campuses to find out where you feel comfortable. Talk to friends and family as well as students at the schools you’re considering for their perspective. You may even be able to spend a night or weekend at a prospective school to get a better sense of whether it’s the right fit for you.

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