The right college may not be the one a friend or relative attended or has the most attractive brochure or web site. Much time and thought should be given in researching a college. You will probably want to generate a list of ten to twenty colleges to carefully research in depth. From there, you should probably apply to six or seven colleges and universities. They would include colleges which would be a “sure thing” for you to be admitted, colleges which “maybe” or “probably” might admit you and where you believe you will be happy, and colleges which may be a “stretch” or “dream” for you to be admitted.
Here are some factors to consider in choosing a college or university:
Reputation of the college: How is the college ranked nationally? For example, the Fiske Guide rates schools yearly on factors such as reputation, student-faculty ratio, SAT/ACT scores, and retention/graduation rates. These factors may have an impact on your future employment activities or admission to a graduate school of your choice.
Selectivity: How difficult is it to be accepted to the college? What criteria are theylooking for in order to be admitted (for example, SAT/ACT scores, grade point average, numbers of honors or advanced placement classes, student activities, and athletics, leadership roles, admission essays)?
Accreditation: Is the college accredited by a regional accreditation body, such as the Western Association of Schools and Colleges?
Major or Academic Department: Does the college have a strong program of study in the area of interest you wish to pursue (for example science, math, business, engineering, nursing, education, the arts)?
Special Programs: Is there a range of available internships, research, creative projects, or study abroad programs?
Class size: How large are typical classes (for example, large lecture classes or small discussion-type classes)? This may have an impact on how much interaction you will have with professors. This is particularly important in your major field of interest. These same professors will act a mentors, assist you with career pursuits, and write letters of recommendation for future employment opportunities or graduate schools.
Faculty: What is the student-teacher ratio? What percentage of classes are taught by teaching assistants or part-time faculty members? Again, this may determine how much contact you will have with professors.
Academic Facilities: Are there adequate facilities available (for example science labs, internet capabilities, library resources)?
Location: Are you going to commute from home to college? How far are you willing to live away from home? Do you want to live in a climate that is warm, moderate, or seasonal? Do you want to live in an urban, suburban, or rural environment? The size of a geographical area can also be a factor in you being able to get part-time employment if you need it.
Size of college: How comfortable would you feel at a small, medium, or large-size college? Will uyou be overwhelmed at a large college versus a smaller college which may provide a more intimate setting?
Type of college: California community college? Four year independent college? Four year church related college? Same sex college? Historically black or Hispanic college? Military school? Out of state college? California State University or University of California campus? Each type of college has advantages and disadvantages…
Housing: If you are living away from home, are there adequate dormitory or rental facilities available? Will you be comfortable with roommates? How long is housing guaranteed?
Cost: To what extent will cost be a factor in your decision-making? Nationally, tuition costs and fees alone at an independent college average over $23,000 a year, over $8,000 at a UC campus, over $3,500 at a CSU campus, and $650 at a Community College. Do student fees include coverage for some medical care at a student health center?
Support services: To what extent are things such as health facilities, recreational facilities, library services, counselors, and computer labs of importance to you?
Student body: Is the student body diverse ethnically and socio-economically? Is this of relevance to you?
Campus life: To what extent are a student union, social activities, fraternities, sororities, student clubs, organization, leadership opportunities, athletic activities, and cultural activities of interest to you? These could be significant considerations if you intend to live away from home.
Campus safety: Do you believe you will be safe on a particular campus? Are there “safety” features such as blue light phones for 911 access, secure dorm access, 24 hour security patrols, and late night security personnel to walk or drive you to your car or dorm? Get a copy of the latest campus crime statistics for colleges online at the college’s web site.
Special assistance: If you have a disability, does the college provide adequate personal assistance? Are there learning or tutoring labs available?