You're ready to find the right college for you, but where do you start?
Finding the right college: Things to consider
You’re ready to further your education, but let’s face it, it can be overwhelming choosing a college when there are so many options. We can help! If you know what you want in a college, you can search online to narrow down options. The Best Colleges search engine is a good place to start.
However, there are many factors to consider in your search. So, below we listed some things to help you figure out what fits you best.
If you’re pretty set on a program you want to pursue, it’s crucial to make sure it’s offered at the schools you’re considering. However, if you have broad interests, be sure to look closely at the curriculum to make sure you know what you’re signing up for. Take some time to reflect on what you’re passionate about. While not everyone loves going to school, earning a degree can be more enjoyable if you like what you’re studying.
Location is important when considering where you want to go to school. Consider what you need in your college’s location when narrowing down your list of schools. If you’re pursuing education in a healthcare field, do the colleges on your list have access to a good hospital system and/or clinical opportunities? Being close to a major metropolitan area often means more access to internships and events.
However, while it’s important to think about important things like clinicals and internships, it’s also important to consider what you want out of your college experience. Are you a city person? Does hopping on public transit and exploring a new neighborhood sound exciting to you? Or, would you rather escape the hustle and busyness of the city for a more peaceful location? Concordia University Ann Arbor, for example, is located in the best college town in the country and is close to many parks, but is also a 45-minute drive from Detroit.
A big factor for many students is the cost of attendance. This can differ by many factors including:
- In-state or out-of-state tuition
- Living on or off-campus
- In-person or online classes
- Public or private schools
We recommend creating a spreadsheet of each college of interest and then comparing the cost of each. Most schools have a net price calculator to help you see how much you may spend.
Financial aid options
Financial aid is just as important as cost. Take the time to find out how to pay for your education and to know what you’re paying for. Colleges vary by how many scholarships they give, but it is important to ask and apply for them. There are many outside scholarships and you may fit the criteria for outside scholarships, so check those out too.
Student services might sound boring, but you don’t want to overlook this important aspect of your college education. The term “student services” means different things at each university, so be sure to do your research.
At some universities, student services includes the library services. What are you hoping for regarding access to digital archives, books, and information? What about study spaces? Ask about these things on your next college visit.
Student health services
Check out what’s available for taking care of your physical and mental health while in college. From routine primary care and preventative medicine, to behavioral health and more, many colleges offer some level of healthcare support to their students.
Disability and access services
Don’t forget to research disability and access services, especially if you need to use them. These services aim to provide support for students to ensure that they can access and participate in opportunities at the college.
Accreditation helps indicate whether or not a college has met minimum standard requirements. It’s a voluntary act that the college initiates, and they go through a rigorous process of evaluation, which includes site visits. You should find out if the college you’re considering is accredited because it could determine whether or not you’re eligible to sit for certain certifications or exams upon completing your program. Accreditation also impacts the ability to apply for financial aid, so be sure to find out if your institution is accredited.
We all know some of the “big name” schools that have strong reputations for academic quality. If you can go to one of those colleges, that’s great. If not, how do you find out if the college you’re looking at offers high-quality academics? First of all, research the faculty and facilitators. Find out as much as you can about the programs you’re interested in. Ask admissions counselors about programs of study, and try to get more information on the quality. Sometimes, admissions counselors are able to connect you with a current student in your desired program or a recent graduate so that you can ask honest questions to someone who’s experienced it.
Spend some time researching the culture at various colleges, specifically the school you’re considering. What’s the school’s history? What do the students, staff, and faculty value? How does leadership handle conflict? Concordia University Wisconsin, for example, is a Lutheran university, so activities like daily chapel and prayer are things that the community values.
You should also dig into student activities and find out what kinds of social events, clubs, and organizations gather on campus. Getting involved in your campus community is a great way to feel connected to your college.
So, how do you find the right college?
Finding the right college for you can feel overwhelming. Remember to determine what’s important to you in a college, research your questions, and talk to actual students to get a sense for what campus life is like. Do you want to know more about what life is like at Concordia University Wisconsin?
— Maddie Schueller is the Content Marketing Lead for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. In her free time, she enjoys listening to podcasts, anything music-related, and hanging out with her husband and daughter.
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