High school students often feel lost or confused from the myriad of colleges and universities shoved in our faces. From the range of e-mails, mail, and phone calls from thousands of colleges, it is challenging to know which ones should be on your list. When it comes down to it, there are so many options and only one final decision to make. It can be overwhelming to try and take all of this in, which is why it is good to start your search with a breakdown of what you want in a college. As a high school senior with only three months left until graduation, I will share what I looked for when choosing a college in order of significance to me.
The most important factor in my college search was the reputation of my major. Although I am aware that many of you are still undecided about your major, if you already have one in mind, you should look it up in college pamphlets, booklets, and websites. Research the academics, the requirements for that program, and the competitiveness. Make sure the school has what you are interested in. I am going into nursing; therefore I searched for the NCLEX-RN pass rate of each college in order to determine the success of students in the program. Why would you choose a college that does not have your intended major or is weak in that program?
I am a family-oriented person in a very close-knit community, so going away from my home state was never an option. Being a Texas baby, I planned to pursue higher education in state but in a different city so that I still felt close to home, yet far enough away to feel independent. Therefore, I narrowed my search to colleges and universities in Texas. Similarly, if you want to go away from home and explore another state or country, you should look for colleges outside of your state; narrow your search by excluding your home state and search for colleges in other regions that appeal to you.
This is pretty self-explanatory, but you know what your family income is and how much the FAFSA can provide for you. Check each college’s financial aid statistics and percentage of students who receive grants, as well as the availability of scholarships. Do not choose a college that you know you cannot afford after getting a financial package, because debt is not something to play with. As for me, I did not base my decision on how much financial aid I received, but I did say that I did not want to go to a private institution since I wanted to use scholarships exclusively for public colleges, and the sticker price for public institutions was way lower than private colleges. This was the best for my family, but it’s different for everyone.
4. College size
Everyone has their own preference in this situation. You many want a large college with 40,000 students and lots of football games and parties, or you may want a small college of less than 5,000 students with more focus on academics and a quieter setting—or maybe something in between. I personally looked for medium-sized colleges and universities because even though the large college setting seemed fun, I knew I was going to college for one purpose: to accomplish my dream career of being a nurse. Therefore, I did not want to go to a school where I would get easily distracted by parties and throw my academics out the window. I also knew I did not want to attend a small school since I am going to a very small high school, and I am ready to experience something a little different. I came to the conclusion that a medium-sized college would be perfect for me since the school spirit is there and there are small class sizes as well.
Another thing worth mentioning is that when looking for large, medium, or small colleges, be sure to find the student-faculty ratio so you can determine what is best for you. Large lecture classes of 300 students to one professor may be what you want, or small classes of 17 students could be more advantageous to your learning. This is all about your learning style and your social likes and dislikes.
So there you go: four things I considered when looking for a college. I hope these factors help you look into your college search a little bit more diligently and make you aware of the different aspects in choosing a college or university. I know for me these four things were the most important in my search, but you can modify the order of importance to your own preferences. Remember this is all about you, so do not mind being selfish when you make your list of colleges. Reject the negative opinions from family members, friends, or peers. In the end, this is your future and only yours. So make the best out of it!
Related: Organize your research with our College Search Spreadsheet Template
What factors are most important to your college search? Let us know in the comments! And start searching for the perfect school for you here.