As someone with a younger sibling gearing up for college applications this summer, I can’t seem to ever escape the talk about college. According to the BLS, about 66% of high school graduates enroll in college. That’s over 2 million students in the US applying and enrolling into colleges! There are 4,583 colleges in the US, so how to you pick which ones are right for you? In this post I’ll go over how to pick a college and things you should look out for during your search.
There are a lot of things you should consider when you pick a college, and one main thing is location. Sure, the academics and culture of the college matters, but location is the factor that will hit you into reality hard. I personally went several states away to an out-of-state college and I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone. If you are going to an out-of-state college that may or may not be far away, you’d better have a really good reason why!
The first issue is that you’d be paying double the tuition or more to go to the exact same classes and earn the exact same degree. There is also the cost of having to either live in expensive dorms or find off-campus housing for the school year. And once summer/winter break hits, you’d need to either find housing again since many dorms close down during vacations or find someone to sublet your room while you go home for the holidays or summer vacation. Both have extra costs you may have if you didn’t live close to home. One extra cost I had to pay was the plane tickets. An extra thousands of dollars each year to go home during summer and winter vacation. Really adds up, huh?
Most colleges will have some sort of assistance in internship and job search for students and alumni. Check the college’s career services website just as you would for the academic departments you’re interested in. Some schools are much better at connecting you to recruiters than others, and this is a crucial part of your last couple years in college.
Some of you may have heard that “a college degree is just as worth a high school diploma these days.” This does NOT mean that you don’t need a college degree. This means that a college degree is the minimum requirement for many jobs! For some reason I see many people confused about this saying and expecting to get job offers after getting their degree. A blank resume to your dream employer will never be enough. Always see if you career services can get you the boost you need to enter your next stage in life. Remember, those student loans aren’t frozen forever!
Some services that I think are valuable are resume checks, employer info & networking sessions, and career fairs. Once you’re a junior/senior in college, be sure to take advantage of these resources your tuition paid for.
Does a city make the people, or do the people make the city? Likewise, does a college’s structure and programs make the student experience, or do students form this culture? I think it goes hand in hand. Look for how the college may present itself. Does it have a variety of services for its students such as mental health clinics, discounted pharmacies, or a commuter lounge and locker room? Do students show school spirit and genuinely connect with their peers and professors?
A lot can be found on social media these days. Check out Facebook groups and Reddit to see what students say about their classes and school, and maybe ask some questions about the culture you’re curious about. There are some schools where students are just trying to get their degree and nothing else; the stress on mental health at this school might be pretty bad if professors are failing a quota of students on purpose. On the other hand, if you see many interactive study groups and clubs for a college, you may enjoy the open community at this school.
I wanted to point out these three factors when selecting where you will be in the next stage of your life because there are much more to colleges than their US News ranking and popularity among parents. When you pick a college, think about more than where your grades and test scores will get you – think about affordability, if you’ll enjoy life there, and if that school will help you with entering adulthood.