Your college education is one of the most expensive “products” you will ever purchase. You need to compare many different options to be sure you get the most for your money. No college is perfect for everyone, and there are probably only one or two colleges that are ideal for you. Your college experience will influence the rest of your life, so you need to select carefully but without procrastination.
College costs are a huge issue, but not as nasty as you may assume. The most expensive schools all offer significant scholarships for those in need, so any school can turn out to be relatively inexpensive to you or even free if you make the effort. Don’t rule out any school without looking into their financial aid options first. And take the initiative to ask a college or university for more money if they don’t offer you enough to make it affordable.
There are several available college assessments that rank every university according to academics, student happiness, and a number of other factors. These lists are somewhat useful to determine the general learning and social atmosphere each school provides, but they are not always accurate or sufficiently detailed concerning what the school is actually like. Take advantage of these lists to consider how future employers will likely perceive your educational achievements there, regardless of your actual experience as a student.
Ivy League schools “infuse” your educational records with the extra boost you may need to be recognized for different job opportunities after graduation, despite that such colleges are not always as great as their reputations might otherwise imply. The learning atmosphere is extremely competitive, but you can get the high-status connections for post-college success. There are many less well known schools with more low-key learning styles and superior educations.
One crucial consideration when evaluating your college choices is the location. Every college or university is part of its setting. Do you want to live in the city or the country? Do you want an isolated campus or one that is distributed throughout a town? Do you prefer proximity to a beach or the mountains? Remember, you’re only in the classroom itself for so long; the rest of the time you will live in the geographical setting. Try not to feel intimidated about leaving home to live on or near campus. It can be a great experience in independent living.
When planning for college, give a higher priority to how you want to learn rather than what you want to learn. You will have plenty of time to pick a major, but for the short term focus on your preferred teaching style and the type of educational environment in which you learn most effectively. You can go to a huge university with large lecture halls and many tests, or a small school with seminar discussions and more emphasis on written essays.
Bear in mind, you can always transfer if you decide after the fact that you don’t like the college you selected. Almost half of all college students attend more than one school before they graduate.