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October 11, 2018

Go Beyond the Marketing Materials to Choose a College


Just because your brother/cousin/best friend is going to State School U., doesn’t mean it’s right of you. Not all universities are created equal, and not every college is going to fit your family’s unique needs. So how do you choose? Look beyond the marketing materials and manicured lawns to these six key features to find your ideal home away from home.

School Size

This is a good place to start. What’s the student to teacher ratio? Big schools typically mean big lecture halls led by teaching assistants. Smaller schools tend to have smaller class sizes and will be taught by faculty professors. Do you work best in the middle of a crowd or do you sit in the front row? School size will also affect the types of student resources available and the variety of social and educational activities. But regardless of the physical size of the campus, you should be able to find organizations, communities, activities, and a campus culture that interests you. If you can’t, It’s time to move on to your next college choice.

Total Cost

Cost is a biggie, and it can be confusing. The first thing to understand is that published tuition price a university puts out is only the starting point. There will be scholarships, room and board, food, books, campus fees, and other daily expenses to consider. You’re looking for the total cost of attending. That’s not always easy to figure out in a university's pretty brochures. So, contact their financial aid office. Inquire about scholarships, work-study programs, and be sure to apply for the FAFSA. Your ultimate college decision could come down to total cost but don’t let it stop you from exploring your options.

Student Reviews

Like all reviews, student reviews come with their own baggage. Websites like Niche can give you an idea on topics from professors to the university’s food service, just remember, their experiences will be different than yours. But do research your schools and look for information that hasn’t been offered up by the college. The best way is to visit the campus and walk around. You’ll be amazed at what you can pick up about a university’s culture just by wandering around

Study Abroad Programs

Studying abroad is one of the great opportunities you’ll have in college. Some schools offer semester-long travel, which is another college expense to consider. Other universities will provide shorter, more affordable, immersive trips between semesters, during the summer, or coinciding with spring break. A select few colleges will actually help you pay for your study abroad travel.

Major Offerings

Don’t have a major yet? No worries. It is also OK if you’ve known your major or program of study since the 5th grade. Just make certain your school has a variety of majors that at least intrigue you. Academic minors, concentrations, and job programs are also a plus.

Location. Location. Location.

The Suburbs. Urban lifestyle. College town. Don’t forget that where the college is located will impact your campus experience. You’re not going to spend all of your time on campus, so does the surrounding city add to your excitement, or make you wonder why?

High school seniors have more college choices than ever before. And while there are many factors to consider, these six are a great place to start narrowing down or even opening up college opportunities.


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