There are countless factors to consider when applying to college. Everyone’s situation is different, and therefore everyone’s criteria will vary. Some of you will have an easy time making the decision. If you’re an athlete, your decision will likely come down to which schools recruited you and which gave you the best scholarship package. If your financial situation prohibits moving away from home, then you will have to stay local and attend a community college. And then, there are the lucky ones. You have known what you’ve wanted to be your whole life and should attend the college with the best program in your particular field of interest. Unfortunately, the majority of you will not fall into any of the categories above. You likely have only a faint idea of the characteristics you want in a college, and everyone you ask will offer a different perspective on what really matters. Here are three important factors to consider when choosing the right college for you:
The number of students has the greatest impact on all things academic. Determining the environment in which you learn the best is vital when choosing the right size college for you. With a big state university, class sizes are large and professor interaction can be minimal. If you have no problem figuring things out with little extra help or wading through a book to better figure out an answer, then you will naturally succeed at a larger school. In contrast, at a small liberal arts college, smaller class sizes offer increased opportunities to interact with professors. If you are the type of student who likes to ask a lot of questions and needs concepts explained more than once, then a smaller school would better suit you.
In addition to your learning style, the timing of your course selections and the number of courses offered is an effect of the size of a college. At a bigger school, you will need to be somewhat flexible with the order in which you take your courses, but there are many courses offered. In some instances, you may not be able to enroll in a class for the exact semester you had hoped. Do not be deterred by this, it does not mean you won’t be able to graduate in time; you just need to plan ahead and be willing to enroll in classes other than those you had originally planned to take. In smaller schools, getting into classes is usually not an issue. However, the tradeoff is that smaller schools often do not have the resources to offer the same variety of classes as a larger school.
One thing not to worry about regarding size is its impact on your social life. You may think that with so many people at a big school, you will get lost in the shuffle. The reality is that you can make a big school feel small based on the activities in which you participate, the classes you take, and where you live. You will no longer just be going to a large school. You’ll be a part of a club, have a network of friends through your classes, and be a part of a dorm floor. With a smaller school, you will be instantly, more comfortable knowing that you are one in a thousand instead of one twenty thousand. At the same time, your options are limited in terms of extracurricular activities.
2. Geographic Location
Your experience in school and after school will both be affected by where you decide to go. While in school, if you’re near a beach, in a major city, or in the mountains, your extracurricular activities will be different. You’ll also encounter different social trends in different parts of the country. College campuses always have many different types of people, but there are always aspects unique to certain areas. After school, most of your job opportunities will likely come from cities close to where you go to school. You are by no means forever tied to the area you go to college, but it is important to keep in mind if you know you’d like to be in a certain location after school. Going to college near that location will make it much easier to find employment there afterward. That being said, with the current American economy, there is no assurance you will be able to find a job in your first choice city.
College sports unite entire student bodies and provide great entertainment. It is not necessary to enjoy sports to reap the benefits of going to a college that places an importance on athletics. You may not think this is a significant factor when considering where to go to school, but college sports provide an instant common ground for everyone to rally behind. In a new environment, it can be very comforting to immediately share a common interest that will continue throughout college and most likely, far beyond.