How to Choose a College

Four Methods:General AdviceThe Education GoalsThe Future ProspectsThe Social Aspects

If you are getting ready to apply for college and don't know how to choose between all your different options, you may wish to read the advice below. We'll walk you through the things you will need to consider when choosing a school to attend!

Method 1
General Advice

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    Do your research. Don't just choose a school primarily because someone said it was a good school. Generally research every school you wish to attend. Research in general to find different schools to apply to. You can look online or use guidebooks, published by a number of foundations, talking about the relative merits of different schools. Remember to take everything with a grain of salt, however. Many of the rankings lists, for example, require schools to pay a fee to even appear on the list.
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    Look at lots of schools. Don’t just look at one or two schools. Look at several in-state, out of state, and maybe even a few international schools. It is important to have lots of options and to know what is available to you. Applying to only one or two schools isn’t a very good idea, as it can be difficult to get into many schools and you may not be accepted.
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    Consider the location. Consider where you would like to go to school. This is a place you will be living for anywhere from 2 to 10 years! It is important to choose a location which you will be happy with. This may be a big city, or a small college town. It might be close to where you grew up or it might be in another country.
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    Find out about facilities and available resources. You will want to decide what kind of facilities and resources are important to you. Some schools provide health plans, different schools have different meal options, different housing options will be available, some schools will have gyms, some might have hospitals, special library facilities, theaters, or any number of other facilities.
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    Meet with instructors. With the programs you consider, talk to the head of the depart which you plan on studying with. They might connect you with other professors who can tell you more about the program. This will allow you to see if these seem like people you would enjoy learning from. It will also help you get a better view of the kinds of things you will be studying. You can ask for a course catalog or you may even be able to request to sit in on a class, if the school is nearby or you will be visiting during the correct time of year.
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    Consult with trusted individuals. Talk about your options with friends, family and high school or college career counselors. Take the word of particular college employees with a grain of salt. The admissions office is their sales office. Get the advice of multiple people and try to get advice from those who do not have a bias.
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    Be realistic. Understand that some schools are extremely difficult to get into and, though it may be your dream to attend, you might not be able to get in. You can have excellent grades, a wonderful essay, and a list of recommendations a mile long: sometimes it just cannot be. Don’t panic. Your life isn’t over. You can always apply to less competitive schools and transfer to more prestigious programs after a year or two.
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    Apply to more than one school. Most experts recommend 4, at least one being in-state. This way, you can have more options to choose from if something happens (ex: not getting enough aid, getting rejected or wait listed, changing your mind, etc)

Method 2
The Education Goals

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    Consider what you want to study. This is the most difficult part. This is essentially deciding what you want to do with your life. You can always change your mind, of course, but you will want to try to choose a school which offers degrees in a field you would like to study. Not all universities or colleges offer all degrees. You can choose something you’ve always wanted to do or you can choose a big school with a variety of good programs if you are really unsure.
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    Research the best schools for that career. If you know what general career path you want to follow, try to research and get into a school which is well-known for programs in that field. This will make you a better candidate for future jobs and also ensure that you are getting the best education in what you want to do.
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    Ask people who are prominent in your chosen field. If you know what you want to do, ask either the manager at a place you would aspire to work for or someone with a great amount of experience in your chosen field. They should be able to tell you good schools or programs to get the jobs you want, as well as provide you with general advice for preparing yourself for that career path.
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    Consider the school’s location. The school’s location will also be important to your education goals. If you are wanting to be in a program which would benefit from internships, such as a business major or a medicine program, you will want the school to be in a location which will offer you good real-world experiences.
    • Business majors, for example, will benefit from choosing schools in big cities, where they can easily set up internships or introduce themselves into environments in which they can get jobs after graduation.
    • Medical students will want to be near major hospitals (a variety if possible, to experience different specialties).

Method 3
The Future Prospects

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    Consider the school’s reputation. Consider the school’s overall reputation. If you’re going into a competitive field, you will want to go to a well-known school. If you have less ambitious goals, a small college may make more sense.
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    Consider the school’s cost. You will need to take a hard look at the money you have available to you (via family, scholarships, grants, and loans) versus how much the school costs. Even with loans, more expensive schools may be out of the question.
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    Consider your future income potential. You should balance the cost of the school against your future income potential. If you choose a very expensive school and are paying mostly through loans, it may not be a very good idea to plan on becoming a professional artist (for example), as your future income will likely be minimal and sporadic.
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    Make sure the college or program is accredited. For example, business and accounting schools are accredited by the AACSB. Pharmacy schools use AACP. A college lacking accreditation may hurt your employability, chances of getting into graduate school, in addition to possibly having to take courses over if you decide to switch from an unaccredited school to an accredited one.

Method 4
The Social Aspects

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    Look at the size and type of school. Do you want a public university or a private college? A big school that is practically a city in itself or one which is very small? These things will determine the general feel of the environment, as well as the amount of help from professors is available to you. Some people may prefer smaller schools, some larger schools.
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    Decide if you want a Greek system. For some people, the ability to participate in the Greek system (fraternities and sororities) is very important. Many schools do not have a Greek system, so look into that when deciding where to go.
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    Find like-minded people. Ensure that the school and student population are similar to you and that you will fit in there. You won’t want to go to a school where you cannot feel included and welcome. However, it isn’t the worst idea to put yourself in a slightly different environment than normal (such as a public school if you have always gone to Christian schools). College is intended to challenge your views and help you expand your understanding of the world, something which is difficult to do if everyone around you agrees with everything you believe.

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    Research clubs and campus activities. Look into what clubs and activities are available at the schools you are considering. This will help you find out if there is potential for you to do the things you want to do and meet new friends with whom you have things in common. Examples of available social clubs and activities include anime clubs, dance clubs (where you can learn a variety of dance styles, often for free), film clubs, and sports clubs.

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    Look into the school’s sports. If sports is important to you or plays a role in how you intend to finance your education, you will need to account for this. Find schools which offer sports scholarships and talk to them about what they’re looking for and how you can get on their teams. You may also just wish to play regular sports, in which case you will want to examine the available classes and clubs.


  • In case you can't go to the college that you applied for, then make sure you have a back up college. That way, if things don't work out the first time, you'll have a backup plan.
  • If you want to go to a particular college, make sure that you have enough money, and if you don't then earn a scholarship or apply for college grants. Do everything possible to make sure that you can go to the school that you want to go to.
  • Sometimes it may be easier to get in as a "legacy", in other words that your parents attended or graduated from the school. Give consideration to these schools.


  • Don't worry about it too much. Despite the hype, this is not the most important decision of your life. It is all about what you do at college, not where you go.

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Categories: Applying for Tertiary Education