Selecting a college or university is a major decision. After all, going to school requires a significant commitment of time, energy and resources. If students find that they made a poor choice, they can certainly switch to a different institution. However, most students and parents want to make the right decision the first time so they do not have to go through a selection process again. Here are some points to consider.
Career goals. Picking a school can often start from a standpoint of vocational goals. In other words, prospective college students often have some idea of what they want to do with their lives when they graduate. Granted, some students do not have a distinct goal, which is why they may select a school that provides plenty of academic options. In addition, a romanticized career should be balanced with an objective perspective on how hard it may be to get into that field.
Types of colleges. Students must decide what type of institution they want to attend. Options include community colleges, four-year universities and trade schools. In addition, a student must decide whether he or she wants to pursue public or private education. Finally, the options of residential learning, commuting and online education should all be considered as well.
Logistics. Many families consider logistical factors in the selection of a school. Some students want to stay in their local area, which narrows their choices considerably. Others may be open to going away for school, which can widen the search but also make it more confusing.
Financial concerns. Eventually, dreams of specific majors and visits to school websites must include a discussion of finances. Higher education can be very expensive, and families may have limited choices simply because they can afford only certain institutions. Certainly, financing options such as loans, grants and scholarships often are available. However, the final bill may still be too high. School expenses can include tuition, books, supplies, fees, housing expenses and travel.
Contacting admissions. Students and families have many different ways to explore various schools in order to make informed decisions. Schools may provide promotional materials for prospective students or direct students to websites where they can fill out forms, read catalogs and view pictures and video of the campus.
Making a visit. If families have the means, it can also be extremely valuable to visit campuses so that students can get a feel for the environment. Plenty of students start school without setting foot on their campus, but it can be helpful to get oriented to the setting before classes begin. Missy Sanchez, who has more than 30 years of experience counseling students at Woodward Academy in College Park, Ga., suggests that college needs to be a place where students feel that they can do their best work.