Choosing which college to attend can be a big challenge. Should you stick close to home or should you choose a college far away? Should you choose a campus in the city or in a rural setting? Small or large? Liberal or research? What are the factors you should consider to make this important decision? If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, these five handy tips will help make it easier for you to narrow your college list:
Compare the Cost of Attendance to Narrow Your College List
The cost of college is rising year by year, so it’s incredibly important to keep finances at the forefront of your college search. Finding an affordable college fit is ideal. But before you write off dream schools with hefty sticker prices, keep in mind that you should focus on your net price estimate. A sticker price may be the total advertised cost, but a net price is your personalized estimate of what you’ll actually pay after scholarships and grants are taken into account. Colleges offer students financial aid packages to help with the expenses, and can often make attendance more affordable.
So when comparing cost of attendance of various schools, make sure you’re comparing your net price—not just the sticker price. Fortunately College Raptor can make that easy. With a free account you can get personalized net price estimates to every 4-year college in the US, making comparisons a breeze!
Explore the Academics
Delve beyond the campus catalog and see what kinds of major and minor fields of study you can explore while attending the school. Make sure you not only research your chosen field, but see if you can talk with a professor as well as current students. Some schools offer lower tuition rates for their graduate students if they earn their undergraduate degree at the school, which makes for a seamless transition for post-graduate work.
Take a Closer Look at Campus Life
College is about more than just studying hard and graduating. Some students may want to participate in extra-curricular activities, while others want to experience the social benefits of a sorority or fraternity. Ask about Greek life, extra-curricular activities, and other social organizations on-campus.
Consider the Location
Some students prefer a school in a rural setting, which offers plenty of opportunities to indulge in outdoor activities, while others may prefer a school in the heart of a city so they can network with major companies. If you have a clear idea in mind of your preference, that’s one more criterion you can use to narrow down your choices.
Not sure about your preference? See if you can stay on-campus for a weekend, or schedule a visit for a longer period of time with the school you are interested in. Keep in mind, however, that not all out-of-state schools may be as affordable as in-state. See if the school has a Good Neighbor policy, in which students from bordering states may attend with an in-state tuition rate.
Student Resources doesn’t just refer to places like the library and the dining hall—if you ever have a problem or need medical attention, you need to know what kinds of on-campus resources are available at your disposal. Many campuses provide counseling, medical attention, study groups, and crisis support to students who need it. Make sure you know what’s available in case you need it.
Ask questions and research as much as you can before you send out your application to any college.