As a College Access Counselor for NYU’s College Connection program, I spent my time telling New York City’s 5th to 9th graders that they should apply to many different types of schools (big and small schools, urban and suburban schools, etc.). Unfortunately, not enough time is spent helping future college students decide which school is the right fit for them once they have been accepted.
Rather than a definitive list of what to look at when choosing a school, consider this as a student’s guide to what matters when picking a college.
1. Location, location, location:
Whether we’re talking about how far your college is from home or the actual city that it resides in, location is important. It would be wise to choose a college where you are not too far from home, have relatives near the school, or have a group of hometown friends. No matter how great your school is, sometimes you’ll need a break and a hug. Families and friends are great for that. As for the location of the school, try to make a visit before making a final decision . Campus life and the town’s social scene could get repetitive and boring. That’s where school size can begin to help mold your choice.
2. Size matters:
Each school size comes with pros and cons. For example, the pros for big schools are that they often have great athletic programs and a ton of specialized academic programs. However, big schools can also have larger classes — meaning less individualized attention and professors that are more concentrated on their research than their student’s learning.
Conversely, Small schools are great because they have smaller classes and more opportunities to take on leadership roles. Cons could include a lack of choices for academic study and a less than thrilling social life. Not all big and small schools fit into these roles, so do your own research!
3. Academic Quality:
Not every school has all majors, minors or certificates you may be looking for. You don’t have to know exactly what you want to study before accepting a school’s offer — but you should have a few ideas. As obvious as it is, I have to say it anyway: your satisfaction with your major will highly affect your college experience. Again, I implore you to do your research!
Obviously, this is crucial when choosing a college. If you haven’t already done so, do the following things: apply for financial aid and find some scholarships. The more money you receive through financial aid and scholarships, the less you will have to pay back in loans. It’s also good to realize that schools don’t all cost the same, but even the more expensive ones can end up saving you money through special aid and scholarships.
The most important thing I can share in this guide is that you must do your own research! Ask school officials and students questions, check each school’s website, and ask friends who are considering the same schools. You will be more informed in making one of the biggest decisions of your life!