Careers & Education

What to consider when choosing a college

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Choosing a college is both stressful and exciting
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A college students tips on what to consider when choosing a college will help yo

How do you decide which college is your perfect fit when there are thousands of colleges in the U.S. alone to choose from? The most useful method to select a dream college is to prioritize your needs and wants.

When you can create a pool of at least four schools that each fit your requirements of a dream college, then it’s time to apply, evaluate acceptances, and make plans to attend your dream university.

Here are a few critical elements of colleges across the nation. Decide which are necessary in order for you to have a desirable college experience.  


Colleges are either public or private. Public colleges are often state-funded and provide a break on tuition costs for state residents. Private colleges are funded by tuition, endowments, and donations. Private colleges tend to be more expensive than public colleges however, they often offer greater financial aid.

Many states have “flagship” universities which are the main school of a state that draws in national and international applicants (think Ohio State University, University of Florida, University of Texas, etc.).

What’s the difference between a two-year vs. four-year college? Two-year, or community colleges, offer students a chance to dive into specialized, vocational work without four years of tuition or student debt. Many students use community college as a way to earn prerequisite courses for cheap before transferring to a four-year university. Four-year colleges provide students a wider array of courses, on and off-campus learning opportunities, and a bachelor’s degree upon graduation.


Colleges are located in every state, climate, and neighborhood. Personal preference for location is the first factor in considering a dream school.

Urban, suburban, or rural are the three options of college location. Urban campuses are situated in downtown areas with a bustling social scene and opportunities of city living. Suburban campuses are somewhat removed from the nitty gritty downtown life and are found in quieter neighborhoods. Rural campuses are removed and secluded with nothing more than thriving campus life.


What size campus do you envision at your dream school? Do you prefer a small campus in which you run into friends between classes and participate in group discussion based courses? Or do you prefer a huge campus with new faces every day and thousands of students packed into sports events?

If you have a preference for a particular learning style look into schools with a size that facilitates it. Larger schools have larger classes and vice-versa. As well, larger schools have a greater variety of extracurricular activities. Visit a large, medium, and small college campus to get a feel for each distinct type.


Cost is usually the most important factor to consider for both students and their parents. The College Board survey of college pricing for 2011-2012 found that a college budget for in-state public institutions averaged $21,447 and private institutions averaged $42,224.

While the overall price tag of colleges can sway a student’s options one shouldn’t be discouraged from the onset. Financial aid can equalize the tuition costs of a public and private university. It can even make a private university less expensive than the in-state option.

Many private colleges, such as the Ivy Leagues, have guaranteed need-based financial aid. This means that if your household income is less than a certain amount then you are guaranteed financial aid to help with the costs of tuition, room and board, etc. There are plenty of resources to find scholarships and loans to deflate the immediate costs of a college education. Search around for the best deals and be persistent.  

When considering a dream college there are various criteria that must meet individual needs. All types of universities should be considered when making this list – two-year, four-year, public, and private. A college’s educational and social scene depends on its location and size. The cost can be a hindrance from one’s dream college, however with financial aid, scholarships, and loans any college can be made affordable.


College Data

U.S. News&World Report

College Confidential

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