Man in demin jacket with black hat and red backpack facing away looking to sky

How to Tell If a College Is Right for You

How can you tell if a college or university is right for you? Find out the right questions to ask yourself on CollegeXpress.

Choosing your college can be exciting, scary, and overwhelming—often all at the same time. Unlike high school, which is usually determined by where you live, college is wide open. Deciding where you will spend four (or more) of the most important years of your life is a big (and expensive) decision. Although you may ask trusted family members or friends for their opinions, the final decision is up to you. Pretty intense, right? But don't worry. There are a few ways to tell if a college is right for you. Assuming you already have a good mix of safety, match, and reach/dream schools on your college list, start by asking yourself these five important questions. They’ll help you figure out if the college is really right for you and deserving of your application (and tuition dollars).

Does the college have your major and backups?

If you're already pretty sure of your intended major and career path, congratulations! That will help you narrow your choices. Larger universities have a wider range of programs, including some that are highly specialized and can include once-in-a-lifetime research, internship, or study abroad opportunities. Smaller schools may not have as many majors, but one of their biggest advantages is smaller classes and more individualized attention—students often get to know some of their professors personally. Another consideration is whether or not you can do an individualized major. If your areas of interest blur department lines, some schools offer the opportunity to essentially create your own program of study.

Related: Why Picking a Major Isn't the Same as Choosing a Career

How is their financial aid?

With 90% of college students receiving some type of financial aid, it's one of the most important factors when choosing a school (just ask your parents!). Your financial aid package might even determine which school you’ll attend. Of course, financial aid packages will vary a lot—seriously, a lot—from school to school and from student to student. But it’s helpful to gather as much information as possible about financial aid at your intended college(s). This includes things like average aid package, the number of students involved in work-study, average student debt, and even four- and six-year graduation rates. What do graduation rates have to do with financial aid? Well, a cheaper school might not be such a good deal if most students end up taking six years (or more) to graduate. Also, many financial awards run out after four years. The point is, the more you know, the smarter the choices you’ll make.

Is the campus the right size for you?

Are you looking for a small college where you know just about everyone? Or maybe you want a larger university where you’ll have hundreds of extracurriculars to choose from? Or perhaps something in between? It really depends on your personal preferences. If you come from a small high school, maybe you like the close-knit feeling of that type of campus. Or maybe you want to try something completely different. But before you make a decision, try to visit the colleges on your list; it is very hard to get a sense of a school’s true “vibe” without going there in person. After all, a big school might feel “small” and vice versa.

Related: Video: Advantages and Disadvantages of Small Schools

Do you feel comfortable with the distance from home?

For many students, college is the first time they've been away from home and essentially living on their own. If this sounds like you, how far do you want to jump into the self-sufficient world of adulthood? Would you rather be a car ride or flight away from your parents and the comforts of home? Will you have to commute to campus due to financial restrictions or other obligations?

Can you imagine the college as your home for the next few years?

Some things you just can’t put into words. No matter how many times you browse a school's website or read their marketing materials, the best way to determine if a college is right for you is to visit the campus. Practically every college offers Open Houses or specialized campus visit days where you can tour the buildings (including a dorm room!), speak with some of the faculty, and even sit in on a class. Look at other aspects of the school, as well. Does the school offer the sports that you play? Extracurricular activities that seem interesting? Academic support like tutoring (college classes aren't easy!) and an active career services office? The bottom line is to determine whether you feel like you would fit in and do well both academically and socially.

Related: 5 Steps to Making Your Final College Decision

When it comes time to make your final college decision, develop a checklist of what you want in a college and see how each school you visit measures up. You'll be spending some of the most important years of your life on a college campus—make sure you choose the one that fits you and can help you reach your future goals.

What college search criteria are most important to you? You can filter your results by major, campus size, athletics, and more when you start your college search on CollegeXpress!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Tags:
college admission college search process finding the right college the college search

About Sara Karnish

Sara Karnish is a freelance writer based in Pennsylvania. 

 

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Rayan Hamdan

Rayan Hamdan

High School Student

I joined CollegeXpress just a few months ago. I had been struggling with severe anxiety, causing me to not be able to tour schools and make sure a college would be perfect for me. I came across CollegeXpress one day when I was searching for colleges online, and it completely changed the game. I was easily able to choose colleges that would suit me, and I also entered a few giveaways! Thank you so much!

Sonny Harris

Sonny Harris

College Student

For the entire year before college, I spent a lot of time deeply considering what major I wanted to go into and how to fund my higher education. After a lot of research, I came across CollegeXpress, which helped me ultimately find a ton of scholarships for which I could apply—and some of which I received! If it weren’t for CollegeXpress, I may not have found those scholarships as they didn't appear on any other scholarship search forum. Additionally, I learned more about the options I had been considering for my major through CollegeXpress’s resources. In the end, I chose to major in Computer Science, as it seemed best suited to me and the careers in the field seemed enjoyable, and I've never been more excited to move into my future! Ultimately, I want to thank CollegeXpress for offering their services. I received enough financial aid in scholarships to fund my entire freshman year of college and even got some money refunded which I used to purchase a new laptop, and I bought all of the books I needed for the semester!

Cameron Lee

Cameron Lee

High School Class of 2022

I used CollegeXpress to search for colleges. It helped me narrow down the schools on the West Coast and which schools had Construction Engineering programs. I made my decision to go to OSU and I am so excited about it.

Khush

Khush

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress is a multi-maneuver platform that has been helping students in their college applications and scholarship hunt process. For me, CollegeXpress has been a boon. I've been able to find my dream university via CX, and I've also been able to apply to thousands of scholarships through it. All the thanks to CollegeXpress for doing such a great job for free. I express my sincere gratitude to you for doing such a wonderful job. I recommend CollegeXpress without any reservations.

Abhishek Kumar

Abhishek Kumar

High School Class of 2022

As a high schooler, I know how hard it is to plan for college. You have to consider a lot of factors: SAT/ACT scores, college searches, scholarships, and more. CollegeXpress has been a helpful resource that solves all these problems. One can easily create a free account and search away. They help you search for scholarships and colleges, they have graduate program search, they have lists and rankings, and so much more. CX also has a lot of articles and advice to read—whether it’s financial aid, test prep, campus visits, internships/careers, or anything. Not only that, CX gives out free scholarship money to students who sign up and create a free CX account. I love CX and will continue to use it! Thank you CollegeXpress for making my college journey easier!

College Matches