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Choosing a College

Type of school

What are pros and cons of each type?

  • College vs. university
  • Private vs. public
  • Professional or specialized
  • Single sex vs. coed
  • Religious affiliation

Location

  • Region or regions of the country (southeast, Midwest , etc.)
  • Consider distance from home and weather/climate
  • Large city, small city, suburban, rural
  • Live on campus or commute

Size

  • Small under 2,000
  • Medium 2,000 - 6,000
  • Large 6,000 - 10,000
  • Extra Large 10,000 +
  • How does size relate to: class size, faculty contact, involvement in activities, playing on a team, number of activities

Academic Program

  • What are the majors offered; is there flexibility?
  • Is there a core requirement?
  • Special Academic Programs (study abroad, internships)
  • Academic course load
  • Class size

Atmosphere

  • Will you feel comfortable there?
  • Diverse campus - geographic, cultural, social, economic
  • Greek life
  • Competitive, artistic, social awareness, supportive, conservation

Which college is right for you? 

To decide which college is right for you, you must first and foremost determine the criteria of what you want and need from a college. Of course, everyone has personal preferences and issues of special concern, but as a starting point, the following list of college/university attributes should be considered when developing a college wish list.

Type of Institution

  • Would you prefer a college or a university? A university is usually larger and is comprised of several colleges.
  • Are you considering a private or public institution? Costs, diversity of students, range of programs, and amount of administrative control vary considerably.
  • Would a professional / specialized school better suit your educational needs for your career goals? Some students have chosen fine arts schools, conservatories, or technological institutes.
  • Would you consider a single sex or co-ed college? Most students choose a co-ed environment, but the number of students who recognize the advantages of women-only colleges are growing.
  • Religious affiliation of a school may be an important factor. Examples include not only Catholic colleges, but also those with Methodist and other denomination roots.

Location

  • Don't let the vision of ivy-covered walls, or a rural setting, unconsciously dominate your decision. Consider the value of living in other regions of the country. This may be your first opportunity to "try out" another area of the country. There are excellent colleges everywhere. Don't overlook outstanding colleges because they are too close to home, or too far away.
  • Urban - How important is the city to you? Cultural centers, Internship opportunities, etc.
  • Rural - Small town, somewhat removed from an urban center. Do you enjoy the solitude of the outdoors--with possibly fewer activities off-campus?
  • Suburban - These institutions are usually set on the outskirts of an urban area but with easy access to the city, so students enjoy the best of both worlds.

Size

  • While the quality of an institution is not determined by its size, your enjoyment of it may be. How important is class size, faculty contact, and involvement in activities to you? In large schools, you can find smaller communities (fraternities and sororities), club sports, and associations for people with your interests. Ultimately, you will take advantage of those opportunities and activities which hold the most interest for you. You must be prepared to act as your own advocate whether at a large or small place!

Facilities / Culture

  • What does the college look like? What does it feel like? Can you see yourself here for four years? Is there room to grow?
  • What is the atmosphere on campus? Competitive? Cooperative? Intellectual? "Preppy"? non-conformist? Socially aware/concerned? Experimental? Artistic? Supportive?
  • How are the library facilities ? More than one? Hours? Used for study or socializing? On-line? Accessibility to other collections?
  • What are types and availability of residence facilities? How old and in what kind of repair? Percentage of students who live on campus? Remain on campus on weekends? Freshman dorms? Sororities/fraternities? Specialty housing areas by interest or major? Are all dorms co-ed? By floor? Can you live off-campus?
  • What are the dining facilities like? Are dining rooms in the dorms? Variety of dietary options? Accommodations for special diets? Vegetarian/kosher entrees? Flexible meal plans?
  • What are the health facilities like? Is there an infirmary on campus
  • Do many students work on campus? Are jobs available to all or only to financial aid recipients?
  • What are the computer facilities like? How many? Where are they located? Easy access?
  • What is the college newspaper like? How active is the dialogue in the paper? What are the "hot" issues on campus?
  • What kinds of entertainment are available on and off campus? Accessibility to movies, concerts, music, plays, exhibits, lectures, etc?
  • Is the campus safe ? What are some of the security measures?

Academic Program

  • What degrees are offered (BS/BA combined degree programs?) Does every department offer a major?
  • Is there a " core curriculum " or " distribution requirements "? What is required? What courses are open to first year students?
  • Are new students assigned an " academic advisor "? Can you choose your own at a later date? Are there "special" advisory groups for different academic/professional interest areas?
  • What is the grading system? Is there a "pass/fail" option?
  • Special academic programs? Study abroad? Internships? "Jan term"? Exchange programs?
  • If a university, what colleges does the school contain? Can you move from one division to another? Can you take courses from a school other than your "home" school?
  • What is the academic calendar? Semester? Trimester? Quarter? Special "interim" plan?
  • What is the academic load? How many courses constitute "full time"? Can you "overload"? Is there a summer term?
  • Class size? What percentage of your classes will be "large lecture"? Are survey and seminar classes available? Size and frequency of labs? Are discussion sections available? How much work will be with "teaching assistants"? Do professors teach all the classes?
  • Do all students pre-register? Is there difficulty getting the classes you need and want?
  • Support services available? Tutors? Services for learning disabled students? Is there an extra charge? Writing center? Math center?
  • Are there honor or professional societies on campus?
  • Is there an opportunity for independent work? Can you design your own major? Is there support for this from the faculty?

Student body

  • Who are the people who inhabit the campus?
  • What is the make-up of the student body? Geographic distribution? Ethnic composition of the campus? 
  • Is there a genuine commitment to multi-cultural education and a diverse student body?
  • How many students graduate in four years?
  • How many students go on to graduate school? Med School? Law school?
  • How many students are employed directly out of school? Do companies come to campus to recruit?

Faculty

  • What's the number of full-time faculty? Are part-time / adjunct faculty used extensively? Faculty / student ratio? Do faculty teach undergraduate classes?
  • Do faculty serve as "academic advisors"?
  • Are professional counselors and advisors available?
  • How accessible are professors? Do all maintain posted "office hours"? Is this enforced?
  • Percentage of female professors? Tenured female professors
  • Percentage of Black/Hispanic/Asian/Native American professors? Tenured
  • Is there an opportunity to work with faculty "mentors" in undergraduate research?

Extracurricular Activities

  • Are students encouraged to engage is extracurricular activities? Is there a means of introduction to the various groups during orientation? Are all activities open to first year students?
  • Are there adequate gym, pool, tennis facilities? Intramural sports? Interscholastic teams?
  • Is there a Student Government Association?
  • What other organizations exist on campus and how active are they?
  • How important are sororities and fraternities? Do they have houses on campus?
  • What role do the arts play on campus? What activities are available outside the classroom? Facilities? Performance opportunities in theatre, music, etc. Are studios/practice rooms/ video room available?

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