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How Do I Make the Right College Choice?

by SAT PROFESSIONALS and Bright Futures College

Making the right choice about what college to attend is one of the biggest and most important decisions a young person can make. But for most, it is also one of the most confusing and frustrating. Even with the help of high school counselors and parents, navigating the college application and admissions process can make one feel as though they are traveling along an impossible obstacle course. Some students rely on the rankings reports from one of the leading news magazines, but since most of the information used to determine the national rankings of most U.S. colleges and universities, is self reported by the schools themselves, both the information and the rankings can be deceiving and unreliable as far as providing the information that would be most beneficial to a potential candidate.

With over 3000 4 year college and university choices available to U.S. students, how can one know what is the best college fit and then understand how to prepare the most attractive and honest picture of oneself as a candidate?

To really answer this question, it is important to take a moment to examine some of the concerns and considerations that will help a college bound student best explore their options.

Size of the school

The size of a college is an important consideration. There are definite pros and cons when deciding between large state colleges and universities and smaller liberal arts or specialized schools. A shy student may be lost in the crowd at a larger school. Large state schools are at the mercy of state budgets, often resulting in large class sizes and difficulty getting necessary classes. Smaller schools may have fewer resources, such as smaller libraries or research opportunities.

School size determines class size and more importantly who teaches undergraduate classes. While many larger schools have renowned professors, undergraduate students rarely, if ever have access to the classes taught by these scholars, instead, it is the graduate students who teach the undergraduate classes.

There are pros and cons for both large and small schools, so it is important to understand a student’s needs and learning styles when considering the size of the school before applying.

Location of the school

Where would the student like to live for the next 4-5 years? It is important to consider if the location suits the student’s needs and interests. Is it important to stay close to home? Does the school’s location allow the student to pursue their interests? If a student loves to surf, a school in Kansas is probably not a good choice.

Choosing a school in a different geographical location could provide a rich and diverse life experience, but it could also be a traumatic transition that could impact both the student’s emotional and academic well being.

Major Offerings of the school

Does the school offer the major or course of study that the student wishes to pursue? No matter how much a student might like everything else about a school, if it doesn’t offer the major area of study, it is of no value to the student.

Graduation Rate of the school

It is important to find out how many students graduate in a reasonable number of semesters. Generally, this is evaluated in 8-10 semesters. A school’s graduation rate is an indication of how probable it is that any given student will graduate. Along the lines of graduation, it is important to take a look at the number of graduates who successfully get into graduate school. If a student wishes to study medicine or law, it is important to know the success rate of graduates applying to medical school or law school.

Student Retention of the school

This is an extremely important issue. How many students stay at the school from one year to the next? Student retention is directly linked to graduation rates and student satisfaction.

While there are many other issues to consider when exploring the best possible college choices, it is important to understand that all of the questions should center on what will be the best fit and offer the best opportunity for success.

Making the final decision as to where to apply is a difficult process, but making the right choice, will make all the effort more than worthwhile, with lifelong rewards.

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