How to Choose a College
Students have few options when it comes to high school. Often, they go to the schools that are located closest to their homes, or their parents choose private schools based on a combination of factors that students may or may not agree with. When the time for college arrives, however, students are presented with a wide array of schools, and each institution might be eager to accept the student with open arms.
In the end, each student will use a variety of different factors in order to make an informed choice, but these are a few of the items students take into account when they’re trying to find the schools that will meet their needs.
It’s reasonable to suggest that students choose schools based on the availability of programs they find interesting. However, not all students feel confident about the field of study they’d like to focus on. In fact, only 20% of students select a specific school based on their chosen field of study.
Thankfully, many schools understand that students find majors difficult to declare, and as a result, these institutions are expanding the options available. Schools like DePaul University offer over 90 majors, which is a 25% increase from ten years ago.
DePaul University offered 25% more majors in 2012 vs. 2002.
98 majors offered at that school alone.
Nationwide, 1,500 separate academic majors were reported in 2010.
Source: The New York Times
As these statistics clearly demonstrate, students are provided with increasing options, and perhaps, that might make choosing a college by field of a study a little difficult. If students can’t choose a major, and colleges are offering dozens of them, most students will need another metric by which to choose the right institution. Thankfully, there are many others available.
Price dictates many of the decisions consumers make in the global marketplace, and higher education is no exception. Often, students simply must choose a school that they can afford; otherwise, they won’t be able to attend an institution at all. Not surprisingly, then, issues of cost dominate the decisions many students make as they consider college. Over three-quarters of students attending private and public schools cite both total cost and available financial aid as important to their decision to attend.
78.5 percent of first-year private school students state that cost is very important to their decisions.
76.9 percent of first-year public students cite financial aid as very important.
83.9 percent of first-year private school students name financial aid as an important consideration.
80.5 percent of first-year public students rank cost as important to decisions.
If cost is so very important, how can students ensure that they’re paying the right amount for their education? These steps might help:
- Determine the cost of attendance (COA).
- Subtract any federal grants that could be used to cover the tab.
- Subtract any scholarships that could be used to reduce the amount owed.
- Subtract any scholarships the school is willing to provide.
The resulting amount is the student’s responsibility, and it should fit within the family budget. If not, loans may help, but they come with fees and interest charges students should include in their cost calculations.
Issues of price might certainly be important, but students might also be willing to pay just a little bit more if they could attend a reputable institution rather than one that doesn’t provide the same high level of credibility.
In a study of UCLA students, published by U.S. News and World Report, respondents claimed that a good reputation is the number one attribute that influences their school choice. Specifically, students wanted to see a good academic reputation, good employment opportunities, and good graduate school options.
Schools with these attributes might provide an education that just seems more valuable, and as a result, students might be more willing to pay to attend that institution.
Home or Away
Price and reputation aside, some students are concerned with the physical location of the school. Some can’t wait to get away from their hometowns, but others have the opposite reaction. Fifty-five percent of college freshmen want to enroll less than 100 miles away from their home. Source: CBS News.
Of those students who do choose a school close to home, many also make interesting decisions about where they will live.
Half of college students live at home. Source: Sallie Mae, as reported by USA Today.
At first glance, living at home seems atypical, as students who live at home aren’t usually exposed to the same level of independence granted to students who live on campus. And yet, there are some advantages to staying home, including:
- Reduced costs
- Staying connected with supportive community members, who might be sources of employment after graduation
- Continued opportunities for work, if students can keep the part-time jobs they held prior to high school graduation
- Emotional support from parents and extended family members
- Fewer opportunities to act up or act out
Other Important Factors
Students spend a significant amount of time in the classroom and in study groups on campus. Not surprisingly, then, most students take livability factors into account as they look for schools. In a study from Stamats Communications, Inc., safety, friendliness, quality of the academic facilities, and teaching emphasis are the factors students thought were important in the public schools they chose in 2010.
These so-called “soft” metrics are important to a student’s quality of life and overall college experience, and they should certainly be included in the decision-making process.