Choosing the right college extends beyond receiving a bachelor’s degree or a diploma. The college you attend touches numerous aspects of your life, from your academic studies and job opportunities to your social activities, hobbies, and more. It’s entirely up to you to identify essential factors in your lifestyle to determine what you want to achieve beyond your higher education. Once you’ve developed a list of your most important factors, it will be much easier to create a list of schools that can cater to your needs. In this guide, we share all the necessary steps to help you choose the right college.
Why Is Choosing the Right College Important?
No matter the level of degree you are seeking to earn, choosing the right college is crucial if you want to equip yourself for the future and make yourself eligible for more job opportunities. Higher education experiences vary widely from one college to another, and so do the degrees they offer.
When Should You Decide on a College?
Selecting a college can be broken into two stages; the application process and choosing between the received admission decisions. High school seniors typically apply to various colleges and universities of their interest during the fall semester, and admission decisions are usually released by schools between January and March. Once you receive the admission decisions from the schools you applied to; you’ll need to choose which college you wish to attend. Most colleges/universities require students to make their enrollment decision by May 1.
How Do I Find Scholarships?
One of the most frequently asked questions by senior high school students is finding scholarships for their higher education. At The Vanguard School, our College Counseling Office work with students on a daily basis to find available grants, work-study opportunities, and scholarships at each student’s desired school(s). Please visit our College Counseling Resources page to find more helpful information on college scholarships.
Factors to Consider
When choosing a college, several factors should be considered to help you find the best fit for you.
Academic Quality and Accreditation
One of the best ways to ensure that you get into a school that offers high-quality education is to research the school’s rankings and reviews. The U.S News report is one of the reputable sources with the most extensive information. While objective rankings are valuable, it’s also essential to have an insight into things from first-person experiences, which you can get from Niche. Niche is a great resource for reviews from various students who are attending or have attended different colleges.
In addition to the academic quality, it’s vital to ensure that the college you choose is accredited. Accreditation is the process that higher education institutions go through to meet certain standards to maintain quality. It’s important to check whether the school is nationally or regionally accredited. Regional accreditations are generally considered more reliable in terms of academic quality. You might also want to check whether the individual academic department you wish to join is accredited in the specific field you wish to study.
You’ll find state universities that enroll more students and smaller liberal art colleges with fewer students. While small colleges and universities may not offer a wide range of programs, they sometimes offer more specialized degrees. Small schools also offer smaller class sizes, which can provide you with access to one-on-one support from academic advisors and professors.
However, if you have a clear goal and interest in what you want to do, you may thrive more at a bigger university because you’ll get access to diverse coursework, professional resources, and a wide range of social and cultural activities.
Location is among the most crucial factors to consider when choosing a college.
The first question many students ask themselves is if they want to go to school in-state or out-of-state. Many students choose to go to school in-state so that they can continue living at home and avoid the costs associated with dorm living and travel. Most colleges also offer “in-state” tuition, which is less expensive that “out-of-state” tuition.
Knowing whether you want to live in a sprawling metropolis, rural area, or someplace in between will also help you choose a college that will suit your lifestyle and desires. For instance, if you want to attain a more intimate sense of community and build meaningful and strong relationships with your fellow peers or professors, choosing a college in a small town might be ideal. However, if you’re looking forward to getting more exposure and access to various cultural and social activities alongside more internship opportunities with major companies, consider colleges in large cities.
Consider schools that offer tuition costs within your budget. Based on the CollegeBoard report, in-state students in a four-year institution spend an average of $9,410 on tuition fees, while out-of-state resident students spend $23,890 on tuition fees. Keep in mind, however, that private colleges don’t consider residency status, charging all their students an average tuition fee of $32,410. Remember that you also need to factor in transportation costs, room and board, books and supplies, and other personal miscellaneous expenses.
At The Vanguard School, our team of college counselors help our students make sense of the numbers to help them decide what the best option is for them.
Do you know what you want to study? It’s important to check that the specific major and any associated specialties/focuses you want to pursue are offered at the college you choose. If you’re not sure of what you want to study, make sure you choose a college that offers a wide range of programs to help you explore before selecting your ideal field without having to transfer to another college.
Additionally, going to a college with various career programs will conveniently allow you to obtain internships and network with more potential employers.
Tips for Choosing the Right College
Before you finalize your research on the best college that suits you, there are a few tips you should to keep in mind.
Choose the Best School Possible
Whether it’s a vocational school, college, or university, ensure that you select the best school for you. Consider the accomplishments, reputation, and success rate because, to some extent, your diploma or degree will also reflect these factors. These factors also come into play when actual employment decisions are made, because employers tend to be more aware of what different schools offer.
Consider Your Specific Field of Study in the School
As much as the overall institution is important, your area of study is more important. Take a deeper look into the school and consider your specific field of study before you make an enrollment decision. Consider finding out about the faculty’s dean, professors, and the number of consultations or research done in the faculty, alongside their accomplishments. Compare your findings with different schools offering the same program and decide which is the best fit for you.
People and Culture
A college is more than just books – it’s people and culture too. Different colleges attract a vast array of people with varying interests, hobbies, and talents. Keep in mind that some of your best experiences, memories, and friendships will come from your school. Campus life, availability of extracurricular/recreational activities, and the school’s location will contribute to your experiences.
College Counseling at The Vanguard School
The Vanguard School College Counseling team is a great resource for all the information you need, including information about the ACT/SAT test preparation, resource books on careers at different colleges, scholarships and financial aid information. For more detailed information on college counseling, college applications, or how to find scholarships, don’t hesitate to reach out. Contact us at The Vanguard School to learn more.