How Do I Choose Which Colleges to Apply To?

Selecting the right university for you requires research and careful consideration. Follow this eight-step guide to choose what college to apply to:

  1. Understand accreditation status.
  2. Consider academic prospects.
  3. Calculate tuition and cost
  4. Assess financial aid opportunities.
  5. Prioritize location.
  6. Check out campus life.
  7. Research the statistics.
  8. Know the opportunities.

Understand Accreditation Status

Before you fall head over heels for a college, be sure it’s accredited. This means that the school meets nationally accepted guidelines for teaching, granting degrees, and operating as an educational institution.

Earning a degree from a college without current accreditation may mean that future employers or graduate schools won’t accept your diploma, so take this step seriously. Look up your school to make sure it’s accredited before proceeding any further.

Consider Academic Prospects

Whether you have your heart set on a particular major, you’re considering a wide range of options, or you’re still undecided, you need to know what kind of academic prospects the school offers. It may have a world-class engineering program or art and design school, but if you aren’t seriously considering those programs, think about how much their reputations will actually enhance your college experience.

You should also consider whether the school is known for excellent teaching or top-notch research, as this could affect how much you get out of your education.

Calculate Tuition and Cost

Tuition can make or break your ability to attend a certain school, so make sure you know how much your education will cost before you commit. Take the time to understand how much tuition tends to increase each year, too, especially if you’re planning on a four-year program.

Don’t stop there, though. Attending college has a range of additional costs, from dorm fees to dining plans to textbook bills to general living expenses. Be sure to get the big picture.

Assess Financial Aid Opportunities

Before you even fill out the FAFSA®, you can start assessing financial aid opportunities at the universities you’re considering. Start by connecting with the financial aid office at each school to ask about scholarships and grants. Research opportunities in your state and local community, too, so you understand what kind of financial aid might be available to you.

When you fill out the FAFSA® form, be sure to send it to each school you’re considering, and then follow up with the financial aid office to assess your situation.

Prioritize Location

For many students, location is key. Whether you’d prefer to save money by living at home or you want to live in a certain part of the country to enhance future job opportunities, it’s important to choose a college with a location that’s right for you.

Remember to consider aspects like city size, climate, and setting, too, as all of these components will help shape your college experience.

Check Out Campus Life

If possible, plan to visit any college you’re considering so you can experience campus life first-hand. Even basic things like the size of the student body and the campus layout can have a big impact on how you experience college.

Be sure to assess social opportunities, too. Whether you’re seeking a dream study area in the library, a college with an endless list of extracurricular clubs, or a university with a welcoming and social student body, make sure the school you pick has the vibe you want.

Research the Statistics

Most colleges keep careful track of statistics that reveal what graduates go on to do after finishing their degrees. Right now, you might not care much about what percentage of business majors landed jobs within six months of graduating, but when you start your job search in a few years, you’ll want to know that your school can help you jump-start your career.

If you’re considering a few different majors, check out the stats for each one.

Know the Opportunities

Understand what kind of opportunities will be available to you as a student, and assess how they’ll help you meet your goals. For instance, if you’re pretty sure that you need a great internship to start down the career path you have your heart set on, find out what your college typically does to get students started down the right path.

If you want to work with a renowned professor, find out whether that’s a real possibility before committing to a program.

Finding the right school isn’t always easy, but these tips will help you decide which college to apply to. Once you’ve completed your application, find out how to get a college scholarship and make the most of your post-secondary career.

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