How to Pick a College – Beyond Rankings
1. Strength In Intended Major
In a recent survey taken by My College Guide of its student-readers this was ranked as the biggest factor with 97% saying it would be a “most important” or “very important” factor in choosing a college. If you already know what you want to study this will be a major help in narrowing down your choices. One great relatively unbiased way to look for schools that offer degrees in your field of interest is to start with a third-party group. If you’re interested in landscape architecture for example you could head to the American Society of Landscape Architects. The group’s Web site offers a list of undergraduate (and graduate) programs by state or alphabetically by the school’s name.
2. Financial Aid Availability
Tuition and expenses may be one of the biggest factors for today’s college-bound students and their families. Getting financial assistance particularly scholarships and grants helps a lot in making college affordable. Consider picking a school that won’t leave you paying student loans until you retire and you might have enough to send YOUR kids to college someday.
What do you want to call home for the next four years — a big city a rural setting or somewhere in between? If you’re not sure make an effort to visit the campus during the school year or at the very least try to find out what the students do for fun on the weekends. If you’ll be stuck in the “boonies” on the weekends is there enough to keep you busy? On the other hand if you’re used to a smaller town will big-city life overwhelm you? Or do you prefer to be close to a city to take advantage of the activities and places a city offers?
For students who like to sleep in and slip into a big class unnoticed huge classes held in auditoriums might be your thing. But if you’re looking for a great faculty to student ratio a smaller school may be your calling.
5. Social Life
You shouldn’t study all of the time so consider whether the students at a school are likely to be ones with whom you can make friends and do things. You’ll probably need to visit the campus and talk to some students to get a good “feel” for this. Are you interested in clubs activities or intramural sports? What about fraternities and sororities?
6. Student Mix
First ask yourself what you’re looking for with regard to the student population. Do you want to experience people from different economic social and religious backgrounds or are you interested in a more uniform student body? Many colleges will list on their Web sites their student body population broken down by gender race ethnicity and/or geographic region.