Why Is Where You Go to School Important?
It is common knowledge that attending college is crucial to getting a leg up in your career and in life. A wealth of research indicates that college graduates earn more than their counterparts who leave academia after high school.
What often goes unsaid, however, is the importance of choosing the right college. Prospective students are so concerned about gaining admission that they forget that they are allowed to be choosy. The ideal college will provide the perfect blend of challenge and support with the long-term intention of fostering growth. Finding all this can feel overwhelming, but the search is absolutely worthwhile.
How to Choose What College to Go To
A lot goes into college selection. From academic programs to class sizes and even campus culture, several factors must be taken into consideration as you determine the right fit. Keep the following factors in mind as you weigh your options:
Determine if You Want Online or On-Campus
There are plenty of benefits to an online education. Rolling out of bed and attending class in your pajamas is a plus. For busy professionals, however, online classes aren’t just convenient — they’re essential for making a jam-packed schedule work.
Despite the conveniences of online college, some students desire the enhanced networking opportunities that come with attending class in-person. There’s something special about the camaraderie of taking classes with a group of like-minded individuals.
Determine which approach you prefer as you select the right college program. Best of all? A college that provides opportunities for both online and in-person instruction, also commonly known as a hybrid program.
Search and Compare Colleges
Prospective students on the hunt for their future college of choice are often overwhelmed by options. It is easy to feel bombarded by colleges sending out recruitment emails and letters, so it is best to take the college search slow. This major decision should only be made after exploring all relevant options.
Finding that perfect school is almost a class itself, one that requires just as much preparation and studying. Location matters, particularly for students who prefer to remain close to home. Another consideration: Degree options vary considerably from one college to the next with certain schools specializing in particular disciplines.
Take some time to develop a list of realistic candidates. An old-fashioned pros and cons list may help you determine which of the potential options are preferable.
Review Schools’ Accreditation
When struggling to make decisions about where to attend colleges, students often forget about accreditation. This is a huge oversight. It would be devastating to put years into a degree program online to later find out that the school’s accreditation is lackluster, insufficient, or nonexistent.
To avoid this possibility, check with the accreditation organizations to ensure the schools on your list meet key standards. Keep in mind that there are also specific organizations that offer accreditation at the program level. Examples include industries such as nursing and education.
Cost is often a driving factor in choosing a college — and for good reason. This can be a barrier to entry for many aspiring students who must balance future earning potential against the cost of education. While student loans and other financial aid are available for almost every individual who qualifies, the price of a college education is one that must be taken into account when selecting a school.
Be sure to compare not only the upfront cost of tuition and fees but also the possibility of securing grants or scholarships at various colleges. Remember, schools that look more expensive at the outset might not be if they offer generous scholarships.
Research Available Majors
If there is one specific field that you are interested in pursuing, searching for schools that offer relevant programs is a must. Not every college is created equal; some offer degree programs perfectly tailored to careers and professions that could be right up your alley. It is easy to find which schools offer certain programs, so this part of the college search should be mercifully simple.
Consider School Size
Whether you would like to be just another face in the crowd or stand out amongst a smaller group of tightly knit students, it is important to research the size of each school’s campus as well as enrollment numbers.
If you feel like smaller class sizes would help you learn better, a cozier campus would be the right fit. If size makes little difference to you, then it is possible that a large university could be the right way to go. Keep in mind that fewer students often mean more time spent interacting directly with faculty members.
Explore the Campus
Visit any school’s website, and you will find stunning pictures of charming buildings featuring students from all walks of life basking in the college experience. Pictures can be deceiving, however, so it is always best to arrange a campus visit before considering any school.
This is your opportunity to get a feel for the campus atmosphere. There is no need to show up on the first day of class and be underwhelmed by your choice.
Talk to Current Students and Alumni
There’s no better way to get the scoop on a particular college than by talking to current and former students. Friends and family members provide especially valuable insight, but chatting with connections from LinkedIn could also help. Most people will be thrilled to offer their insight to prospective students.
As you chat with these students, remember that your mileage may vary — what one person views as a wonderful college experience may not be quite right for somebody else. Still, their perspective will give you a more well-rounded view of the school in question.
Compare Financial Aid Offerings
Unfortunately, the reality of college is that some schools have more scholarship and financial aid opportunities than others. It is important to find out which aid offerings are available at your potential schools. You will also want to determine your likelihood of being eligible for specific scholarships or other forms of student aid. A long list of opportunities means little if you do not qualify for any of them.
Extracurricular Activity Options
There is more to college selection than degree programs and financial aid. What fun is the college experience if you cannot have a fulfilling life away from all the lectures and coursework? Having a decent work-life balance at school is crucial, as burnout can negatively impact both your mental health and academic performance.
Dig deep into each school’s extracurricular activities. Clubs and intramural sports are particularly worth investigating. Academic or professional groups can help you build friendships as you gain insight into your chosen field.
The old expression “the only dumb question is the one never asked” rings true when it comes to finding a college. How else are you supposed to know specific details if you do not ask?
As mentioned earlier, current students and alumni can provide a basic feel for what you can expect. Admissions staff can also offer a wealth of information. Do not be afraid to dig in deep with questions about graduation rates and student satisfaction.
Find the Right Fit
The great — and frustrating — thing about choosing a college is that every school is completely different. Eventually, however, you are bound to find an opportunity that feels just right. While it is important to verify this perception with research, there is no discounting the value of intuition. Listen to your gut as you determine which college is right for you.
College selection tends to prompt a lot of stress, but it should feel less overwhelming if you keep your focus on the exciting future that awaits. Take time to enjoy the moment and look ahead — but also look back at what you’ve accomplished. Making it this far is something to be proud of, so find the positivity in your achievements and focus on that.
As you seek the perfect college to meet your personal and professional goals, be sure to check out the many programs offered at Post University. If you have any questions, contact us for more information.
Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly!
Please note jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s program and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions representative.