College selection is one of the most important decisions you can make. This will influence more than just your future career – it may also impact who you meet, where you end up living and the opportunities presented to you. But with so many options out there, you might have trouble narrowing down your list. Instead of filling out your applications randomly, use this list of college selection criteria to help you build a varied and informed list of schools to apply to.
If you know your career plans, it will be much easier to narrow down your list of schools. But even if you don’t know what you want to do with your career, you can still use a school’s major offerings as a tool to help decide if a school is right for you. Think of your interests and what you could see yourself doing; do your favorite schools offer those as major programs? If not, they should be taken off your list. An excellent campus life or a big name won’t make up for the fact that you can’t study what you want to study.
Value is one of the most important criteria when you’re evaluating possible colleges. A school does not have to have a high price tag to give you an excellent education, and many smaller, less expensive schools have the curricula and the rigor to compete with Ivy Leagues and other big-name schools. Depending on the major programs the schools offer, a big name can just mean a more expensive education that you might have been able to replicate at a smaller or less high-profile school.
The actual cost of your college is another important consideration. Remember, tuition isn’t the only cost you’ll be paying, so add up things like the cost of living in the area, the typical cost of books and auxiliary costs like a meal plan. Also consider your career plans and your potential starting salary as you weigh the cost. Thinking about future earnings will help you evaluate the amount of student loans that you will be able to manage over the subsequent 10 years.
Finally, think of the quality of life questions, like what the campus is like, what student activities are available and what athletic teams the school has. College isn’t just your classes and the library — there are usually extracurricular events and organizations to help you get involved, meet fellow students and enjoy yourself. These are important parts of the college experience too.
Ultimately, where you choose to go to college is a big decision, and it shouldn’t be left up to chance or a last-minute decision. By using these four important criteria, you can comprehensively evaluate every school on your list to determine if it is a place you can truly see yourself spending four years getting an education. For help narrowing down your list of schools, use this college search tool to evaluate your options.