Choosing a college is a major life purchase. Treat it like buying your first car, minus the pushy, persistent salesperson. Colleges have price tags and features just like cars, but they do a heck of a lot more than get you from point A to point B. College is the place where you find your path personally and professionally. Don’t be fooled by the flashy floor models or rushed into a decision. Take the time to make an educated choice.
But oh, are there choices.
Private, public, two-year or four-year? In-state or out-of-state? Large, medium or small student population? Big-city or small town? Wait, there’s more. Research-focused, religious-based, sports-crazed, party friendly or I’m-just-here-for-the-piece-of-paper kind?
How do you begin?
Don’t commit to the shiny, expensive car because it makes you look cool and everyone else is buying one too.
It is best to choose the college that isn’t going to be at the top of your list of bills to pay each month after graduation. If you have to take student loans to cover half of your tuition and housing, think twice.
Next? Shop Around.
Make a list of 3 colleges or
universities that interest you. Just like cars, the schools may have different features. Maybe one is in-state. Another could be your local community college. The other might be a private college in another state.
Tip: Private colleges normally have one price, regardless of the state you live in.
Then What? Take a test drive.
This is otherwise known as the college visit.
Visit colleges online first, then in person. Does the website match up with real life? If not, be sure to kick the tires when you are there. Be observant. Take a current college student or someone who works in education with you when you visit.
When you are on campus, are the faculty and staff attentive? Do you feel comfortable there, or like a number? Does the admissions staff ask about you, or immediately begin to spew out facts and figures about how great their institution is?
Attend a class in a subject area that interests you. What is the faculty member like? Do they seem excited about their lesson? Are the students engaged? (Other than the ones who are checking social media when they should be listening.)
Tip: Before you visit, write down questions to ask when you arrive on campus.
It seems like there will be a few college visits in your future. Do you know what to say when you get there? Here is a list of the Top 7 Questions to Ask on a College Visit. Asking these questions will ensure you get most of the information you need to make an informed decision. Even better, asking the same questions at each college visit will also make it easier to compare the schools on your list.
What are you looking for in a college? Tell us in the comments below.