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10 Steps to Choose Your Ideal College

UserMark time22 September,2015

You are facing the biggest and the toughest decision of your academic life. Armed with acceptance letters, you only have one month to choose a college where you plan to spend the next four years of your life. It is rare to evoke a positive response from your side when it comes to taking a decision on choice of college. But any doubt in the decision process increases your anxiety level and stresses you out as you keep questioning yourself whether you are making the right choice or not.

So, how will this article help you?

This article intends to describe 10 steps that can help you to select the ideal college for you.

top factors in choosing a college

Step 1: Revisit your shortlisted colleges

It is good to have more than one choice. It is an advantageous position to be in, but still you don’t feel good, isn’t it? We have a solution for you.

Action to be taken:

Have every college application lie in front of you and think back why you applied here. Ask questions like,

  1. How did you identify the college?
  2. What made you think that it is fit for you?
  3. How this college is unique from other colleges on your list?

Make a list of pros and cons of those colleges on your list. Identify the various aspects of college life like:

  • The size of the college
  • The strength of an athletic program.

Rank colleges according to your priorities.

Reasons why:

You will perceive what are your priorities and necessities. Eventually your favorite list will get pruned down.

Step 2: Find a suitable location

Yes, college academics are significant to decide where you go, but location is also an important factor in the social setting of a college. If you want to be happy with your choice, pay close attention to the location of the college.

Actions to be taken:

Think about the part of the state, country or world where you are comfortable spending the next four years; also about the things you need to consider before making any decision:

  • Climate
  • Size of the city
  • Academic life
  • Student life
  • Financial factors
  • National college rankings
  • Proximity to recreational opportunities.

Answer these following questions,

  1. What geographical region do you prefer?
  2. How far away from your home you want to be?
  3. What do you prefer? Rural or urban college?

After choosing a suitable location, you need to revise your list once again and spot those colleges that are located in your chosen area.

Reasons why:

No matter what a college offers in terms of programs, size or cost, you have to first like living there.

Step 3: Pay a second visit to the colleges

After coming down to fewer choices, it is time to assess your options physically. Go back to the colleges to answers numerous questions.

Actions to be taken:

  1. Spend a night in a residence hall on weekdays. Eat at least two meals in the dining hall and attend two classes in different disciplines, including first year class.
  2. Have conservation with your professors from the academic departments of your interest to know the prospect of your programs.
  3. Hang out, watch people and listen to them. Inquire about campus life, politics, sports, religion and ask about their opinions.
  4. If you have interest in sports, meet the coach as well as member of the team. These folks may be your support system in the next four years.
  5. If you have financial concerns, make an appointment with the financial aid office. Carry the copies of your financial aid application and your recent tax returns for references. Don’t assume the financial concerns will be eased after you enroll. So do whatever it takes to find a financially comfortable environment.
  6. Inquire about safety measurement that the college has taken, crime statistics and campus escort programs

Reasons why:

These visits will tell you where you fit the best. This step will work for you before you commit to something. Follow the above steps to get most of these campus visits.

Step 4: Delve into your departments

You may want to look into the college ranking to make the decision, but also remember that academic prestige can be measured on a smaller scale as well. For instance, a college excelling in biology discipline may have a less regarded history department.

Actions to be taken:

  1. Do some internet research or reach out directly to the faculty members in your prospective department.
  2. Speak with alumni and potential employers in the industries where you want to join after obtaining your graduation degree.
  3. Find out if the academic programs’ curriculum offers hands-on-experience and provide internship opportunities or helps you find internships in your field, prior to your graduation.
  4. Know about the student-to-faculty ratio. If the college has less faculty member as per the number of students, the less personalized attention you are likely to receive.

Reasons why:

This will put you in a favorable position to choose wisely. Now that you have assessed the most significant criteria of choosing a college, you are just few steps away from making your final decision.

Step 5: Review the job opportunities

Developing a four-year plan to land on a job gets easier when you have access to the robust campus career services that play a vital role in the students’ post graduation career. The quality of campus career services differs from one college to another.

Actions to be taken:

First find answers to these following questions:

  1. How often a student can actually get into the career service office and talk to somebody? Is it once in a semester? Or once in whole four years of your college life?
  2. Is college putting their money in a place that will actually help the students in the future?

Reasons why:

This way you will understand the possible outcomes of your actions and prosperities that your programs have for you in the future.

Step 6: Compare financial aid packages

College education does cost huge money, and the price tag can vary greatly. When considering a college, make sure you are aware of all the costs associated with attending the college like textbooks costs, fees, food and other expenses; all these can add up to a big number. But if you have financial aid, you need to pay far less than the amount. Remember, colleges offer several forms of students’ financial aid in the form of loans, grants and scholarships.

Actions to be taken:

You may not have access to full financial aid offers; you can explore on your own. There are many sites that allow you to calculate the amount of monthly loan payment after graduation after taking into consideration tuition fees and sources of aid.

You will have to evaluate the cost of living on campus versus off campus; many colleges provide ‘room and board’ packages that cover the cost of both housing and food for students.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. With the financial aid offered to me, can I afford to attend my first choice college? (Remember, college aid is supposed to provide you access and choice, not lure you in a college that you don’t want to attend)
  2. Is there a commitment from financial aid office to extend the aid after the first year of college? If yes, under what terms and conditions?
  3. Is the loan or work required reasonable? Can I afford the payments once I finish my graduation? How many hours of weekly work does the award imply?
  4. Is there any alternative to pay for your college? Ask your financial aid officer to suggest you other options for financing your college years.

Reasons why:

Having those numbers in hand can be very helpful when you choose among the colleges you think can help you progress.

Step 7: Check the majors

One of the most important decisions you need to make either before or after enrolling in the college is what major you will pursue. A major is a primary course of study while attending college. So you must invest extra time for that. Most bachelor degree programs demand every student fulfill certain general credit hours, and the generals include English, history, math, political science. These should be finished prior to the major courses. Most colleges require their students to select a major in sophomore year in college.

Actions to be taken:

Ask yourself the following questions,

  1. What subject are you interested in?
  2. If you found an interesting subject, what’s it like?
  3. What will the study program involve?
  4. What career opportunities you will have?
  5. Is the college I am attending most qualified for my major?
  6. What are my major requirements?

Reasons why:

The sooner you decide and declare your major, the better off you will be. Now you can make sure whether the colleges on your list offer the major that supports your long-term career objectives.

Step 8: Make sure about safety and security

Many college campuses appear safe, but appearance can be deceiving. So you have to assess the safety factor very closely because in today’s time, it is better to be safe than sorry while evaluating college campuses.

Actions to be taken:

  1. Every college is abided by law and has to publish an annual statistics report of respective campuses. This statistics report shows the number of burglaries, theft, robberies, liquor violations, rapes, murders, drug abuse, violations and weapon possession on campus. Your task is to ask the college for the statistic report and review it before attending any college.
  2. Find out what safeguards the colleges have taken to ensure the safety of the students.

Reasons why:

Safety is one of crucial factors before making your final decision. Without assessing the safety measures, you cannot be 100 percent certain about the college you wish to attend.

Step 9: Keep perspective

Keep an open mind but don’t forget your preferences, priorities and necessities, it is the last stage of the choosing process.

Actions to be taken:

Talk to the people you know about your choices, you family, friends, relatives and your school counselor. Ask if they can give any suggestion about colleges on your list that may be a good fit for you.

Reasons why:

Remember your choices may change during the process. So work according to that.

Step 10:  Make the decision

May 1 is rapidly approaching; most of colleges want you to decide by 1st May. But take ample time to decide because it is one of the crucial decisions of your academic life.

Actions to be taken:

Start the work, do some serious assessment, spend the few weeks in it for making the decision.

Reasons Why:

At this point, you might come down to couple of colleges; one out of two will be a clearer choice. Your decision will be an easy one.

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