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How to choose which college to attend?


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John’s Answer

Sue the best way to get started finding colleges is to speak to those around you. Talk to your counselors, teachers, family friends and even your parents. Often these people will be full of friendly advice and what's nice is that since they know you, they may have specific reasons for recommending a certain college. Take note of their recommendations but don't assume that they will give you the answers. Remember, you are just getting started. Asking the people you know for recommendations is a good way to generate a preliminary list of schools. As you research these schools, you'll begin to discover what is important to you. It may turn out that these initial recommendations were spot on or totally off.

Most colleges have brochures, catalogs and web sites. While these are definitely valid places to begin when you are first researching various colleges, they are just that—a good start. But before you make a life-changing choice like the selection of the college you want to attend, you should go to college fairs and speak with the college representatives. Take advantage of these opportunities and be prepared—here’s a key question to ask every college: How does the college rank in the major you want to study? Universities are stronger in some areas and weaker in others. While it may be too early for you to know whether you want to major in English or history, check out how strong the programs and professors are in the various fields you are considering. One indication of how much emphasis a university places on a major is to find out how many students are studying that major, how many courses are offered in the field and how many faculty members teach the courses associated with that major and others like it. This should give you an idea as to the size of the department and the range of courses. If you want a major in a narrow field, you might have to consider a larger university. A startlingly low graduation rate is never a good sign. The goal of college is to obtain a degree, so it makes sense that a high rate of failure and/or drop-out is a red flag. Some schools are much more successful at graduating students than others, so don't settle for a path that is unlikely to lead to the degree you're paying for.

It doesn't matter how great a college is if you can't pay for it. You won't know exactly what a school will cost you until you receive an official financial aid package, but it's easy to find what percentage of students receive aid and grants to attend. The financial aid that students receive varies greatly among public and private institutions. Private colleges cost more to attend but generally have more money to offer than public universities. All school publish average aid packages including the amount of aid that comes from grants and loans. Watch out for heavy loan burdens—you don't want to graduate with so much debt it will be difficult to pay back. Colleges will generally try to meet you in the middle with financial aid—don't expect to have your entire tuition paid for, but don't allow a school to ask for more than you can realistically pay. Check out these college profiles to know whether you qualify for aid at your dream school and approximately how much grant aid you might be able to expect.

Hope this was helpful Sue

Thank you for your continued support Kim. You never know when one act, or one word of encouragement can change a life forever. John Frick

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Yasemin’s Answer

Hi Sue! Great question; this can definitely vary! Distance, cost, class/campus size, extracurriculars, certain programs tailored to your career choice all affect your decision. I also think academically wise, it is beneficial to research matriculation data for colleges like SAT, GPA and EC's requirements so you definitely have a better list to apply! If you like science for example maybe check out the alumni network, class sizes and teacher to student ratio to see about research opportunities and furthering your career. For example as a premed student, I used the Biology Department's guidance many times and it was great to know that I have help. I would also recommend to look at support for students; like wellness center, tutoring, writing for excellence, etc., to make sure you can be the most successful! Also I know right now with COVID it is difficult but if you can visit the campus, I would! I think having a good feeling about the campus you are touring will help in making sure you want to go there. I knew I wanted to go to my college choice but visiting the campus made me extra excited- I practically fell in love with it!

Best of luck future undergrad!

Congratulations on 500 questions answered on CareeVillage Yasemin. What we do today can change lives tomorrow. John Frick

Thank you so much! Yasemin G.

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Anna’s Answer

Hello Sue! That is an excellent question. I would say that there are 2 main deciding factors to consider-
- Money
- Merit
Whether or not you can actually afford the school will, of course, affect your decision quite a bit. Will you be taking out loans? How many scholarships can you get from the school? If you have loans, the common rule of thumb is to stay under $40k-$60k, if at all possible. Expensive schools aren't automatically better than cheaper schools, so be sure to pursue something you can reasonably afford.

Next up is merit. You want to pick the best school that 1) you can pay for (see previous) and 2) you enjoy. If you have plans to go to graduate school, for instance, you may be more concerned with the school's reputation than you would be otherwise. And, of course, what you want matters too- are you concerned with college life and want an exciting experience? You may benefit from a central city location. If you are interested in sports, seek out schools that can meet your goals. The list goes on, so be sure to visit and speak with a lot of options to find the best one for you.

All in all, picking a college should be exciting- I remember being incredibly stressed trying to pick a school, but I ended up somewhere I love. No matter what, as long as you push for excellence, you will be able to find the right fit for you. So good luck, and happy searching!

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LeAnna’s Answer

I chose an in state school, due to cost and location. I would recommend writing down what's important to you in a college/university, but one major component to keep in mind is cost. I suggest applying for grants and scholarships (big or small), as soon as possible. Those funds will add up and you'll be glad you made that a priority in the long run.

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Fernando’s Answer

It all starts with first deciding what you want to study. What are your drives or passions? What is the thing you want to pursues and develop? After that you have to research the field itself and what types of jobs you can get there. Once that's done you then look through the various colleges that offer a curriculum in what you're looking for. This is a long process that you should not rush through. Take you time to narrow down what you want and research each college that offers that. When it comes to picking a college keep track of: location, tuition, scholarships on offer, degree programs and accreditation. A lot of colleges offer online tours, as well as personal councilors that are willing to answer any and all questions you have with regards to the programs and even college life they offer.

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Tori’s Answer

Hi Sue!

This is a great question! It all depends on what you are interested in for your career. Once you understand what you are passionate about and what it is that you would like to do everyday, you will then know what field you will want to go into. Each school has different subjects for you to major in for the degree you choose. Some schools have better programs than others depending on which degree you choose. You can also base your decision on which state you live in and the total cost for your attendance. When considering your school's location, think about how far you are comfortable with moving away from your current state. When considering the cost of attendance, think about how you will be paying for school, whether it is with a scholarship they may offer or considering a lower cost if you are paying out of pocket.

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Nitsan’s Answer

Hi! This is a very good and important question! A small advice that I can give, on top of everything that was written before, is to remember that college is not a goal. It is a tool.
You should think about where do you want to be in 5 years? In 10 years? And start to go backwards from there. Don'y try to make your life easy. Pick the choice (tool) that will maximize your chances to get to your real goal.
Good luck!

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Atul’s Answer

You live in CA.
This is an easy answer, your state has one of the best universities- if you can admission in CalTech or UC Berkley.
You will have the best education and experience you can get.
Save money - do incur student loan and state schools are the best to have an education with lowest expenses.
Make sure you have high GPA and SAT/ACT score.

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Simeon’s Answer

Besides some of the starter questions like what degrees you're interested in and how much it would cost, I would recommend finding time to actually spend on campus. You'll be spending a lot of time on campus and you want to make sure it's a place you would feel comfortable calling home for a season in your life. Personally, I really loved going to universities that had nature trails wrapping around the campus and social spaces. You'll find it easier to socialize and get to know people if you already feel at home.

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David’s Answer

Hi Sue!

Awesome question and I wish I took the time to be more thoughtful when attending college. When choosing a college people use many different approaches. The first is typically based on ranking, trying to attend a higher ranking school so you are more competitive when looking for jobs and internships. While this should be a consideration, it shouldn't be the only consideration. You also want to make sure the college you attend has the program you're interested in with 3-5 back ups in case you find that subject unappealing. This is huge because no matter how good the school ranking is, if the program you want to pursue is not available then there's no point in attending that school. School cost is also a huge factor to consider. Public schools offer grants, while private schools only offer loans. This means you will owe more money and be in more debt when attending a private school once you graduate. Lastly, I would look into the student services - do they offer services that help with employment and/or internships. Do they have partnerships with companies for internships, etc.

Choosing a school can be daunting, but also should be really exciting! I hope you enjoy your experience and don't stress it too much!

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Ryan’s Answer

Hi Sue,

This is a big question for sure. I think there are a lot of comparables between this and choosing a company to work for. In both cases in my life, I've found it helpful to institute a few practices. One, I remind myself that there is no perfect decision so I have to just consider my options and make the choice that I'm most comfortable with. Second, list out your priorities and use that as your guide. For example, is school and class size important? Distance from home? Programs? Campus Culture? Tuition Cost? Etc. List out what you care about most and then use that prioritized list as an aid or tool to help you make the best decision possible. It's a practical guide for trusting your gut.

Hope this helps and best of luck!


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Brayden’s Answer

There are many things to consider when deciding where to go to college, but the main two things you should ask yourself is, 1) what do I want to get my degree in 2) how much does the school cost. If you are thinking about college then Im guessing you have a degree in mind regarding what you want to do as an occupation. You can easily search schools for school in the United States and ensure they offer the degree you are seeking. From there the next thing is money. Schools can vary drastically in price and depending on if you live in the state where the school is located to whether it is private or public c. Being "out of state" meaning that the school you want to attend is not located in the state where you currently live, will result in the cost of tuition being higher. Typically out of state tuition can range from 1.5-2x the amount of in state tuition depending on the state. Next you need to consider the size of the school (big or small) and the location ( far or close). Once you narrow down within a few schools its just about trying to visit them, attend in-person/virtual campus tours to begin getting a feel of how the school fits. I highly suggest visiting the school first to ensure that fit will work. Also dont overestimate the distance from home. In many cases college is the first time being away from home so distance from home can be big factor in how your college experience is.

Overall, college is a great experience. Enjoy it because its your first time being a true adult. Good luck in college search!

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Rukhsana’s Answer

Hello. This all depends on what type of career you want to go into after High School. Some Careers require a college degree but there a lot that don't. Since there are so many other options now a-days, such as internships, vocational/trade schools, community colleges, it all depends on your financial situation, in what state you want go to or if you want to take online classes. The great thing is there are so many different options.

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