The most important question to ask when looking for schools is, does the school offer your major? This will greatly reduce the amount of schools in the pool during your browsing process. If you are undecided, create a list of possible majors that pique your interest. Make sure that the schools you consider offer them all. If you plan on pursing a Master's or Doctorate degree after concluding your bachelor's degree seek out schools that offer Advanced or Accelerated Degrees. Essentially, this plan allows students to graduate with their Bachelor's and Master's degree in 5 Years, saving both time and money!
If you are not a Gates-Millennium Scholar, costs should be important to you. A great way to truly break down the costs of your studies is to view the cost per credit, instead of viewing the total costs presented. The dollar value attached to the cost of attendance is an estimate that includes a series of fees that do not apply to every student. As an example, costs including housing, meals, transportation, books, and toiletries are often included in this lump sum. This cost is greatly inaccurate for a person living with their parents who walks to school (the costs of transportation, meals, and housing don't relate to them!) The average undergraduate program is 124 credits and is used as the base for our spreadsheet.
Location is solely in the eye of the beholder. There is a whole world out there worthy of exploring. College is a great way to explore, get away with ease, and expand your network. By the time of graduation many students have left student housing and entered housing leases in nearby areas. A larger percentage of students begin a career that they genuinely love while in the area. What this means is, seeking a location that you like is essential. You may decide to stay in the area after obtaining your degree. When considering colleges out of state, be mindful of the time and costs associated with traveling home. We never know when an emergency may occur, and you don't want to be stranded.
If you listen to the radio, then I am sure you have heard the following in an ad before.
Size matters. HA! But seriously, a great thing to consider is not only the size of the school, but also the population of students, and most importantly the teacher to student ratio. Although there is no guarantee, the ratio gives you an idea of how many other students will be in the classroom with you, and if you will be able to receive the proper attention you may need. Wikipedia is a great place to grab a quick snapshot of these numbers if you do not have the time to browse through the school's web page. Additionally, the size of the campus is important as well, especially if you lack a car or bike. Seek information regarding how far apart the buildings are, if vehicles are needed to get to locations, and even take a virtual tour to see how far apart the dorms are from your college (ex. see where the College of Business is with respect to the dorms).
Although class profile should not be a deciding factor when browsing through schools, it is useful when narrowing down your final selections. The class profile gives you a view of the average student, allowing you to know where you stand among your peers. It usually includes an age range, test scores, and work experience. The real question is, do you want to be a big fish in a small pond, or small fish in a big pond?
Because you are entering a foreign environment, it is essential that you are familiar with campus resources to ensure your personal success. What free resources are provided to all students (extended Library hours, tutoring, writing aid, etc)? What resources are available for minorities? What student organizations are available for you to join? Do they meet any of you interest and personal needs. If you do not plan to work while in studying, joining an organization is a great resume booster to substitute paid employment. Student organizations are also a great way to network and get to know the students around you outside of the classroom.
If you ever considered Greek Life, head over to the college's student life page and make sure that the organization(s) that have your eye are active and in good standing. In the case that they aren't active check to see if they are inactive due to being temporarily suspended, or if they are no longer recognized by the university. In many instances, membership may be brought to a halt if no active members are left at the University.
Overwhelmed? Don't be. Click here to download our Custom College Comparison Worksheet and store all of your information in one place.
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