Top Factors to Consider When Choosing a College or University

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There are a lot of factors to consider when researching and finally choosing your college. Here are some of the top criteria.

Sure, when it comes to finding the right college, every high school student's needs and wants will be different. However, these categories apply to just about anyone's search.

Make sure you investigate your college options using all of these categories. We've provided some of the top questions you should be asking too. (And if you're really getting close to the end of your college search, here's some crucial advice for making the final college decision.)

Related: The Ultimate Guide to the College Search: How to Find Your Perfect College Match

Academics

  • Does the school have not just your ideal major but several good backups in case you change your mind?
  • What is the reputation of the faculty and the faculty in your major(s) in particular?
  • What are the academic facilities, libraries, and labs like?
  • What kind of research opportunities—not just in the sciences—exist on campus?

Affordability

  • What is the average financial aid package?
  • Does financial aid include loans?
  • What is the average student loan debt?
  • Is the school need-blind or need-aware in admission?
  • How many years does it typically take students to graduate?

Community

  • What is the social scene like on campus?
  • How many students live on campus full time?
  • How many stay on campus during the weekends?
  • How many are on campus during summer break?

Location

  • What is the “town-gown” relationship like between the college and surrounding community?
  • What are the area’s employment opportunities like for students as well as recent grads?
  • What’s the average cost of living and general quality of life?
  • What kinds of recreational opportunities are there?
  • How safe is the area?

Selectivity

  • What is the average admitted student’s academic profile like, and how does it compare to yours?
  • Is it a safety, reach, or realistic option for you?
  • Does the school take a holistic approach to admission decisions?

Support

  • What campus services are available to students, such as tutoring, career guidance, and mental health?
  • How many students take advantage of these resources?
  • How accessible are these resources? Where are they located on campus?
  • Are any of those services available to you after you graduate?

Enrichment

  • What kinds of extracurricular opportunities exist on campus?
  • How many students participate in extracurriculars?
  • How easy is it to start your own club?
  • What kinds of experiential education opportunities, such as internships, co-ops, research, and volunteering, exist on and around campus?

What are your top college search factors? Have you found your perfect university yet? If so, how'd you do it?! Leave your story in the comments. Let us know if you have any questions you'd like us to answer too!

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