There are tons of resources to help you narrow down your choices. Here are a few things to keep in mind when making your selection:
- Visit - First and foremost, always visit at least one or two of the school’s you are looking to select. You can learn quite a bit about a school just by spending a few hours on its campus, as you cannot really “get a feel” for the school’s environment and surroundings without actually being there.
- Location - Consider the school’s location. Do you want to be further from home or as close as possible? Or even somewhere in between? Another aspect within this point to consider is the campus’s environment, be it rural, urban or suburban, and how that affects the school’s activities, nightlife and even parking.
- Diversity - Diversity is another thing to look for. Many students make the mistake of selecting a school simply because most of their friends are attending that same school. While this may make the transition easier, it will not help you meet a variety of new people nor will it help you branch out yourself.
- Size - A school’s size is a key factor. While a big school with hundreds of thousands of students may sound like a good time, the vastly uneven teacher-to-student ratio may make your classes more difficult.
- Academics - The majors offered at each school. Whether or not the courses will be challenging enough for you.
- Extracurriculars - The programs and activities offered in addition to academics. May include sports or hobbies that are of interest to you.
- Cost - Be sure to look at the Total Cost of Attendance. Not just tuition, which by the way is at an all time high, but also the cost of room and board, books, fees, and other college-related expenditures. And let's not forget that we will be going for more than one year.
Once you know what you're looking for as it relates to these types, you can start to browse various college selection resources.
College Selection Resources
1) The U.S. Department of Education has a great College Finder to start narrowing down your list of schools. College Board also has a College MatchMaker that may be of assistance.
Now that you have a good-sized list of schools (maybe 20 or so), you can start to learn more about each school. Check out some comprehensive guidebooks.
2) The Fiske Guide and The Princeton Review are the two extraordinarily large guidebooks to get more in-depth information about prospective schools.
Well, you've done it! You've narrowed the thousands of schools down to about 10 schools that interest you. Now it's time to get an even better understanding of where you might spend the next 4 years of your life.
3) Talk to alumni, visit campus (if possible), and ask people you trust. College Niche publishes great student-to-student guidebooks that offer insider information about campus life in its entirety. Now that you've selected your schools of interest, you can start Filling Out Applications and Obtaining Financial Aid.
As you look into selecting the perfect school, keep in mind that different schools will offer different financial aid packages. Make sure that you prepare to fill out the financial aid applications well in advance and seek the assistance of a financial aid consultant to ensure that you are preparing financially to go to school.