College Selection Criteria
College costs aren't the only factor when selecting which college to apply to or
attend. There are more than 6,500 colleges from which to choose, each with its own
culture and vibe, and it's worth the extra effort while researching to find the
college that's right for you.
What Type of College Appeals to You?
- Academics – What are your career dreams and interests? Make sure
the colleges you apply to offer courses that let you develop the skills you'll need
for the types of jobs you want after graduation.
- Location – Do you want to be close to home, or are you interested
in experiencing a new part of the country? Do you want to attend a college in a
warm or cold climate? Do you have a preference to be near a beach, mountains, or
a lake, or would you like to be in the middle of a big city?
- Athletics – Whether you want to play college-level sports, stay
fit through intramurals, participate in cheerleading, or simply root for your college's
sports teams, consider the athletic opportunities and atmosphere.
- Campus surroundings – Colleges are in rural, suburban, and urban
settings. Do you prefer a campus in a quiet environment, or would you like to have
lots of restaurants, clubs, shops, and other attractions at your doorstep? Remember,
you won't be in class or at the library all the time!
- Student body size – Do you prefer to know everyone on campus,
or do you like to be unknown in a crowd? College sizes can range from as few as
100 to more than 60,000 students, and the size of the student body will play a major
role in your experience. Student body size is often reflective of class sizes, especially
in your first year. So think hard about what size college suits you best.
What Is the College's Academic Climate?
- Retention rates – Looking at what percentage of students return
to the college for their sophomore year can give you an idea of how satisfied students
are. If a college has a low first-year retention rate, it may mean that freshmen
are dissatisfied with their college choice after their first year and therefore
do not return.
- Graduation rates – How long it takes you to graduate can have
a big impact on your total
cost of college.
Students who graduate in 6 years will have two additional years' worth of expenses
compared to students who graduate in 4 years. Look at a college's 4-, 5-, and 6-year
graduation rates to get an understanding of how long it takes most students to graduate.
- Percentage admitted – The percentage of students admitted could
give you an idea of how selective a college is. Colleges with a low percentage admitted
are more selective than colleges that admit a high percentage of applicants.
- Participation in student aid programs – Generally, colleges do
not participate in every financial aid program, so be sure to research financial
aid program availability at each college.
- Career center/alumni network – A career center and developed
alumni network can be helpful in finding a job after graduation. Learn about career
resources at the colleges you are considering.
- Major availability – Make sure that colleges you consider offer
the major for the career you want to pursue. If you are undecided or interested
in more than one major, look at colleges that have strong offerings in all the areas
you are considering. That way, if you change your major, you don't have to transfer
to another college.
What Is the College's Social Atmosphere?
- Greek life – Do you want to be part of a sorority or fraternity?
What percentage of the students participate in the Greek system?
- Clubs and organizations – Getting involved with clubs and campus
organizations is a great way to meet like-minded people. Check for clubs and organizations
that let you develop your current interests and explore new ones.
- Percentage of students who stay on campus on weekends – Do most
students stay on campus or leave on the weekends? If the majority of students do
not stay on campus, you may not enjoy the atmosphere if you plan on staying on campus
most of the time.
What Are Some of the Characteristics of Campus Life and the Student Body?
- Dorms – What types of dorms are available, and how is the quality?
Do you prefer to live on or off campus? Are freshmen required to live on campus?
Is on-campus housing guaranteed for four years?
- Dining options – What dining options and meal plans are available?
How is the quality and variety of the food? At some point during all that hard work
and socializing, you will have to take some time to eat.
- Campus diversity – Do you prefer a campus with a diverse student
population? Diversity information should be available through the college's admissions
- Safety on campus – Check with your colleges to obtain their safety
and crime reports. What policies and procedures are in place to ensure students'
- Religious affiliation – Do you prefer to attend a college with
a religious affiliation?