Woman in yellow sweater and grey hat looking at two paths in corn maze back-to

This or That: What to Consider Before Choosing a College

Public or private? North or South? In state or out of state? Here are some quick questions to ask yourself before choosing the college that's right for you.

Stumped about where to attend college? Often people go right into choosing a school before taking into consideration all the facets involved. College is not simply where you are taking classes and studying—it is where you are going to eat, live, make friends, and most importantly, it is the place you will call home. This is why it is important to look at every aspect of the college—not just academics—before making a decision. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before choosing the college that is right for you.

In state or out of state?

Some people prefer to stay close to home, while others prefer to branch out and experience life truly on their own. Staying in state can mean a cheaper tuition, a shorter drive home, and a more familiar student body. Choosing a college out of state, however, could mean a better scholarship and a chance to reinvent yourself and make all-new friends. Both are excellent choices, and it all boils down to preference.

Related: In State vs. Out of State: What's Best for You?

Small or large student body?

Again, there are pros and cons to attending small and large colleges. Think about the high school you currently attend. If it is a small high school, do you enjoy the closeness that you feel with the rest of your classmates, or do you dislike seeing the same faces every day? If the high school you attend is larger, do you like never having the same class twice with the same people, or do you crave a more intimate student body?

City or college town?

A quaint college town can make even a large school feel cozier, and a big city can make a small college feel livelier. It all depends on the type of atmosphere you prefer. A college town is said to provide the quintessential college experience, with up to 90% of the population consisting of college students. However, going to college in the middle of a city will never leave you bored, as there is always something to do, not to mention the night life is always thriving.

Studious or outgoing atmosphere?

There is nothing wrong with wanting to party—although I do urge everyone to manage their time wisely! On the other hand, the atmosphere you crave might be different. If you are a little quieter and prefer more of a private dorm life, there are definitely colleges that are more work than play. However, a social atmosphere might be more desirable to you if you favor studying in a group as opposed to alone. And of course, there are colleges that thrive off the motto “Work hard, play hard.”

Related: List: Colleges with Medatative Spaces

Modern or old school?

New colleges pop up every year, but some have been standing since the 1700s. If you’re going into a career with technology, a modern school with shiny new machines and high ceilings might be right for you. History buffs might prefer an older school with the knowledge that every building on campus has a story. 

Private or public?

There are perks to attending both public and private colleges. For one, the tuition cost of a public college is discernibly cheaper. However, private colleges are often much more generous with scholarship money. The food is also said to be much better at private colleges.

North, South, East, or West?

Whether you are going out of state or staying in state, the location of your college matters. Taking things like weather, proximity to beaches, and culture in mind, the four corners of the United States are very different. You might be addicted to sweet tea and sunshine, in which case the South might be the way to go. However, if you prefer seeing snow on the ground in the wintertime, the North might be more suitable.

Liberal arts or STEM?

This again ties into what atmosphere you like and what areas of study you are considering going into. Being around people with similar interests is important in order to build connections useful to you later in life. English and history majors might prefer a more close-knit liberal arts college in contrast to math and science majors who may favor colleges that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math.

Related: The College Search Process: Finding the Right College Match

Once you have asked yourselves these questions, a picture of what college is right for you will probably become much clearer. And of course, it is important to keep in mind that these questions are not always either-or. There are plenty of colleges that can give you the best of both worlds when it comes to atmosphere, location, or size. But armed with a better idea of your likes and dislikes, it will be easier to narrow down your list of colleges. Happy searching!

Do more research on your colleges of interest using our College Search tool!

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:
choosing a college college admission college decision college search

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
CollegeXpress Logo

$10,000

Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Kayla

Kayla

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me organize the schools I wanted to choose from in one place, which then I could easily compare and find the school that was right for me!

Joan Franklin

Joan Franklin

Counselor

I love this website and have been using it for years with my students. I originally bought products through Wintergreen Orchard House and appreciated having key facts at my fingertips when advising students. Your site is easy to access and offers a wide array of topics I need as a busy college counselor.

Lu Diehl

Lu Diehl

High School Class of 2022

I never would have found the college I plan on attending without CollegeXpress! I've always been a person of ambition and have been dreaming of studying and working on my passion for law, legal studies, and political science. Washington College is where I plan on pursuing my career. My journey with my education has been difficult, and oftentimes, I was told I would never amount to much, but now I'm dual enrolled at Caroll Community College and have had experience in the fields I am dedicated to. Without the help of CollegeXpress (even in its early days), I would never have found Washington College and the information I need to apply and become a part of their community.

Courtney Smith

Courtney Smith

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has been a huge help! The website is very organized with finding the right scholarship for anyone and anything. With CollegeXpress, I've been able to find many scholarship opportunities to apply for. Not only that, I'm also able to search for the colleges I have interest in and see what’s required and what scholarships they offer. I've learned a lot from CollegeXpress. They've helped me in many ways to achieve my goals!

Wendy Thompson

Wendy Thompson

Owner, Westport Educational Consulting

I just discovered your site and LOVE it—fun, interesting, full of incredible information you can’t find anywhere else, and a godsend for those of us in the college counseling business. I am a fan!

College Matches