Many students are dumbfounded when it comes to searching for the “perfect” college. I personally know the heartache and uncertainty that comes with researching colleges. You don’t know how to go about all the emails you’re getting and the mail you’re receiving from potential schools. It’s crucial for students to find a college they’re comfortable with and excited to attend. Through my own experience, here are five things to look for in a college that will be most helpful in your search when deciding where to attend in the future. Buckle up—you are in for a ride!
1. Academics and career services
The main reason you’re going to college is to learn more about yourself and what you want for your future. If the college you want to attend doesn't have exceptional academic offerings and career services, then what’s the point? Academic services consist of classes and majors available, tutoring, and opportunities for hands-on experience. When learning about something you’re interested in, you’ll want to take a bunch of classes that will help you learn more about it. You’ll also want an academic counselor who is involved and helpful, because let's face it—you may know what you want to do (or not!), but you’ll need someone to help guide you. Some colleges don’t have much help when it comes to finding the classes you want and registering for them, so you should make sure the school you attend has exceptional academic services. You can find out by calling them and seeing just how helpful they are!
You should also make sure your school has a great career services office. After college, you’ll either pursue graduate school or enter the workforce. A school that offers job fairs, internships, and a career center that helps with résumés, interviews, and networking will ensure you get a good return on your investment. Just be sure to take advantage of all the services your school offers, starting as soon as you step foot on campus!
2. Class size
When looking at the academics of a school, class size should be a huge part of your research. Class sizes can range from a dozen to a couple hundred students at some colleges and universities. Do you want your classes to feel personal, or do you want to feel like a small fish in a big sea? You must think about how you learn best. Do you prefer big lecture halls with many students beside you, in front of you, and behind you? Or would you like to have a personal connection with your professors and be in a close-knit classroom environment? Be sure to look at the average class size, and even try to attend a class while you’re on a campus visit to see if you could see yourself there. Do whatever is most beneficial to you and your learning! Everyone is different, and some students might like the feeling of being with 100 other students. However, people like me want small classes where they can pay attention more easily. Take your time to decide and find how you learn best.
3. Living style
Living style consists of your campus life and perspective. Do you want to live in a dorm? An apartment? Do you mind communal bathrooms? How many roommates would you prefer to have, if any? You want to make sure you’re going to be comfortable with your living style. Of course, it will take some time to get used to, and it will be hard at first—but getting used to college life will come with time. Many students get homesick, but it's all about being independent and having your own adventures. Also think about campus events and student involvement. Are on-campus events important to you? How is the school spirit and the atmosphere? To avoid homesickness, it’s important to feel involved and at home on your campus. Living style is an important part of your final college decision because it will be your home for the next four or more years!
4. Safety and comfort
When you're on the hunt for the right college for you, it's important to choose a place that makes you feel safe and comfortable. To make sure you have a worry-free experience, it's a good idea to look for easy access points in case of emergencies and check that the school has proper safety measures in place. It's also worth visiting in person and taking a stroll around the area to get a feel for the surrounding neighborhoods and see if you feel at ease there. Remember, your safety is crucial, so take your time to make sure you're making the right decision.
5. Cost to attend
Don’t let the sticker price of a college affect your decision. This amount is hardly ever what students and families actually pay. Be sure to talk to admission counselors and get in touch with each school’s scholarship and financial aid department. There are so many opportunities to cut your college costs— you just have to look. CollegeXpress is a great resource to look for scholarships. RaiseMe is also great if you're looking to attend a specific college and want to see if you can benefit from what you’re doing now to save money.
What you want in a college or university is ultimately up to you. No one can tell you what the right decision is. While all these search criteria are important, the main thing is how you feel. Trust your gut and your research, and believe in your own adventure.
Ready to begin this exciting search process? Learn everything you need to know and plan for with The CollegeXpress Ultimate Guide to the College Search.