At 17 or 18 years old, it can be tough to figure out how to choose a college. And when it comes to the final decision, it seems like there are a million different factors to take into consideration. After all, this will become your new home away from home for the next few years, so it’s super important that the school has everything you’re looking for, and, most importantly, makes you feel comfortable enough for you to call it your home. To put you at ease, we created a list of the top factors to consider when choosing a college to help make your decision seem a little easier.
- Class size: A lot of college classes are significantly larger than what you experience in high school, so do your research ahead of time to avoid being overwhelmed walking into your first day of classes. If you like more one-on-one interaction with other students and professors, a small class size may be what you need rather than an auditorium filled with hundreds of students.
- Ranking of programs offered: Make sure the school has at least a few majors that you’re interested in and take the time to look into their ranking. Some universities are known for being great for certain programs, while they may lack in others. While your major isn’t the end-all, be-all of your career, going to a school that’s well-respected in the field you’re interested in can seriously help your job prospects down the line.
- Liberal arts or specialized curriculum: You should browse through the courses offered for your intended major and make sure they suit your needs. Do you want to have a diverse pool of courses that many liberal arts schools offer, or would a school that focuses on a specific area, like fashion, better fit you? Think about the skills you need for your future career, and then find out what you would learn at each type of school to see which one best fits your needs.
- Study abroad opportunities: Studying abroad can offer the opportunity to explore new countries, cultures, and give you the chance to look at your major from a new perspective. If you know that you want to take advantage of going abroad, contact the study abroad office at the schools you want to attend and ask them what types of programs they offer for the majors you’re interested, how much it would cost, and any other concerns you have.
- Dorm style: Do you want to live alone? Are you okay with living in one room with two other people? Do you need to cook your own meals? Consider all your needs (and wants) and ask the college all the different types of housing they offer and how much each one costs. Your dorm is an enormous part of your life in college, so being comfortable in your living space is extremely important.
- Extracurricular activities: Getting involved in clubs and organizations on campus can allow you to meet new friends who share the same interests as you while also helping you build leadership skills and learn about new topics. Browse through the organizations on campus to make sure you’ll have something productive to do in your spare time to broaden your horizons and pad your résumé.
- Distance from home: Spending time away from home is a big adjustment for anyone, so it’s important to think about the distance you’ll be comfortable with. Are you ready to have to travel across the country, or would you rather be able to take a quick drive or train ride home?
- Food availability: Is there a wide variety of food offered both in the dining halls and around campus? Are there options that fit any dietary restrictions you have? Most schools give you the chance to check out the dining halls when touring, so make sure you don’t pass this opportunity up.
- Size of the student body: The size of the student body can have an effect on aspects from class size, to school spirit, to how often you run into your friends on campus. Every setting has its perks and its drawbacks, so think about what would be most comfortable for you and which setting you can best picture yourself in.
- Layout and size of campus: Do you want to walk through city streets between classes, or are you looking for a more traditional campus setting? If you have the opportunity, it’s a great idea to do an overnight visit on campus and see if it’s a place where you would feel at home.
- Scholarships: Although it’s maybe the least fun part of deciding on a school, cost is arguably the biggest factor to consider when choosing where you’re going to study. Luckily, most colleges offer money to students for things like grades, sports, and more, so apply for everything you can and see how much each school you’ve applied to is willing to offer.
- Job availability: Working while you’re in school can help with time management, money management, and responsibility—and also, obviously, provide you with enough cash to live on. Fortunately, many schools offer programs and workshops to help you find a part-time job. Browse through locations on and around campus and see if there are plenty of opportunities for you to take advantage of.
- Cost of living around campus: It’s a good idea to talk to current students and visit campus to get an idea of how much it costs to live in the area where the school you’re considering is located. If the college is affordable but the city it’s in is not, it may not be as budget-friendly to live in that location as it first seemed.
Now that you’ve decided on a college, it’s time to choose a major that will set you up for success.
Featured photo by @rhiannonrogers.