Preparing for college is fun, but can be super stressful if you don’t know different things to research. Sometimes, we get so excited about looking at colleges that we forget about some of the basics that we need to know before choosing a college. There are so many factors that go into choosing the university you’ll be spending the next four years at. Make sure to go through everything, even the boring parts of school searching, and you’ll be better prepared for picking the right university for you!
1. Rank Your Priorities
First things first: you need to rank your priorities. You can’t go into picking a college if you don’t know exactly what you are not only looking for but also what will fit best for you and your family. Whether it is finances, location, majors, minors, and so many other factors that we will go into, you need to first prioritize these things.
If being away from your family sounds horrible, eliminate the schools that are the wrong distance. If you enjoy the big city, search for schools in the right location. Rank everything on our list and put together a list of what is most important to you, and then match these wants with universities that will have these options.
2. Admissions Rate
Unless you have stellar grades and are involved in extracurriculars, you should look up the admissions rate for all the schools you are considering. If every school on your list has low admissions rates, you might be setting yourself up for failure. Have at least one school that fits all the criteria you are looking for while also having an admissions rate that you know works for you. If you want to go to an ivy league school, make sure to apply for at least one university with higher admissions rate to ensure your acceptance.
Sometimes, we get so excited about looking at colleges that we forget about being realistic in our decisions. If you want to go to the other side of the country or even the world and know that you can handle it, go for it! But we have to remember that college is already a huge adjustment and being thousands of miles away from everyone we know can be really hard. If you lived in the south your entire life and move up north for school, or vice versa, it can be a challenging adjustment if you’re not used to living like that. Know what works best for you and what you are ready for before making such a large commitment.
If you lived in a small town your whole life, going to college is going to be a weird adjustment regardless. But going from a high school with a few hundred people to a large university with thousands upon thousands of people attending can be a huge shock. Or, if you lived in a big city and think you’re ready for a change and want to live in a small town, it can be shocking at first. Make sure you do your research and pick the right size college for you.
5. Degrees Offered
So many of us go into college with our minds set on exactly what we want to major in and end up changing it at least once. It can be hard to choose a school based on the programs they offer because you might end up changing your mind. Nonetheless, look at what schools have the best programs for what you are interested in, and look at the other options in case you change your mind. Having a backup plan is key when looking into colleges.
Cost is a really important factor to consider when researching universities. If you want to attend school out of state or go to a private school, know that the cost is going to be extraordinarily larger than if not. Your dream school is your dream school, so if you really want to make it happen, you can. But remember that you can save a lot of money based on small decisions you make in the beginning. Even if it means attending a community college for your first year, you will be able to save a lot of money.
Extracurriculars, social scenes, and sports teams can all play a big factor in what college we choose to attend. If you love going out or attending all the games, going to a small school with little options won’t be exciting for you. Some schools are labeled as the “party school,” but let’s be honest in that every university is a party school. Yet, some are more into it than others, and if that’s not your scene, try to avoid going to the major schools that are known for this.
8. Graduation Rate
The graduation rate is one of the things to research that we sometimes overlook, but it shouldn’t be. Even if you don’t think it matters how many people did or didn’t graduate before you, you should look into why. There are a lot of contributing factors that go into why someone doesn’t graduate college, so you should try and research these things. No one goes into college with the mindset that they won’t get their diploma, so knowing the graduation rate of your potential university is important.
9. Housing Options
Although housing options typically only affect the first year or two of college, these options can still make a big impact on up to half of your college experience. Some universities have amazing housing options, while others have the worst of the worst. Some colleges require freshmen to live in on-campus housing, some require it by the number of hours you have finished, and others require up to your first two years be living on campus. You will want to know this ahead of time so you aren’t blindsided by having to live in a dorm for another year.
10. Scholarship Opportunities
Scholarship opportunities are often overlooked if money is not a problem, but regardless, you can still find amazing scholarships to apply for. If money is tight, you will want to look into every scholarship opportunity each university has to offer. There typically are more scholarships available than we realize, so make sure to do your research for the ones that are not heavily advertised.