The value of college is widely known, but many people struggle with choosing which school to attend. Whether you’ll be applying to several highly selective schools or you plan to pick from your local colleges, you’ll likely have multiple options to choose from.
If you’re not sure where to start, consider these details to help you choose the right college.
Decide Where You Want to Live
When you plan to spend more than a couple of years somewhere, location matters a lot. You can narrow down your college choices by first deciding if you want to stay local. If you have several schools nearby, think about where exactly they’re located. Are they in the middle of downtown or farther out in a suburb or even a rural setting? Either way, think about whether the school you have your eye on offers the environment you want. If so, consider how you’ll get there, such as whether you’ll have access to public transportation nearby or will need to drive.
If you plan to get an education far from home, think about where you want to be. After all, you could end up staying for four or five years, so you’ll want to make sure you can handle the weather and have access to all the amenities you’re used to. Whether the college you’re considering is in another state or even another country, visiting the campus at least once is recommended before you make this decision.
Choose the Right College That Meets Your Academic Needs
Think about what you want out of college. The answer should depend on the career you’re interested in. What kind of degree or certificate does it require? Many two-year colleges offer degrees that work well for numerous careers, from massage therapy to criminal justice. Even if the two-year colleges near you don’t have the degree program you want, you can get your general studies done and then transfer to a four-year college.
If you prefer a four-year college to begin with, look for one that has the degree program you need for your career. If you’re not yet sure about your major — or even your future career — it’s okay. Just choose a college that has a few different programs you might be interested in. Then take a look at the courses you’ll need to take, and get an idea of the class sizes you can expect.
Make Sure You Can Pay for It
While tuition shouldn’t necessarily be the only factor to consider, it’s not realistic to forget about it unless you happen to have a hefty college fund. But many people don’t, so they either rely on financial aid or plan to work through college to pay tuition as they go.
If you have a dream college in mind, find out how much tuition is first. Then get to know the financial aid packages that are available. You might need to use a mix of grants, loans and scholarships. Just make sure the education you’ll end up with is worth the money you’ll pay out of pocket. This means ensuring you can get the degree you want at the school you attend, and that the career you’re interested in will be profitable enough to repay your student loans. If you’re not sure, you can always start at a two-year community college with affordable tuition.
If you’ve considered all these factors and are still having trouble choosing, find out what current and past students think of the schools on your list. Their insight may be the tie breaker you need. And don’t forget to visit each campus to really get a feel for the school before you enroll. At that point, you should have all the information you need to make the best decision for your situation and choose the right college.