As a prospective student, choosing a college can be a daunting challenge due to the numerous criteria you have to consider thoroughly in order to be confident with your choice. Many interrelated aspects determine how your experience is going to be at an academic, personal and professional level. Even students who know exactly what they want from their college experience struggle to find the college that fits most of their criteria.
To narrow down your choices and find your dream college, ask yourself these five essential questions.
1. What kind of location do I prefer?
The location of your college matters a lot. Many students believe that the best institutions are located in bustling metropolises and have large campuses filled with tens of thousands of students. That’s not necessarily true. Dartmouth College is an elite Ivy League institution located in a charming rural setting, for example. If you prefer quieter surroundings and a smaller campus, this does not mean you have to compromise on the quality of your education.
2. How far from home am I willing to go?
Some students see college as an opportunity to embark on a personal adventure of great proportions and would prefer studying in a place that excites them rather than staying close to home. Other students struggle to leave behind their parents, siblings and high-school friends so don’t want to move too far away. When deciding on which side are you, remember that staying nearby for your friends is not a good idea, as some of them will inevitably move away. Going too far from home will make it hard to visit your parents or for them to visit you in case of need.
3. Does this college offer interesting academic and professional opportunities?
College is a time of accumulating knowledge and experimenting within the parameters of your future profession. Thus, it can immensely helpful if your chosen college offers opportunities where you could practice your skills and gain additional knowledge in your field. This could mean editing positions at the campus journal, internships or study abroad opportunities. A good college experience means more than just grades and exams.
4. Does this college have a good ranking for my major?
No matter how highly-ranked and popular is a college, each of its departments might have different strengths and weaknesses. If you want to study business, look at high ranking business programs first and only secondly at the overall ranking of the college. Likewise, if you want to do advanced scientific research, look for departments that include your STEM major and have laboratories equipped with the latest technology.
5. Will it be easy to have a social life there?
The size of your college can affect your life as a student. In a large campus, you’re more likely to meet new people constantly but struggle to maintain regular contact if you study in different buildings or your campus is sprawled over a large area. In a small campus, students get the chance to form more closely-knit relationships since they tend to meet more often. Another aspect to consider is whether a college has student associations, organizations and clubs where you could meet people with similar interests.