Figure out what factors are most important to you before choosing where you will apply
Selecting a college or university isn’t quite as simple as picking out a new phone or deciding what Frappuccino you want. In fact, choosing which colleges to apply to can feel pretty stressful—amid an already hectic high school schedule.
With thousands of schools across the nation offering four-year degrees, it’s hard to know where to start. Or even what you should be looking for.
Here are seven key factors to keep in mind when choosing where to apply:
First and foremost, you are going to college to pursue an education. Finding a school that offers the undergraduate programs you’re interested in is the first step.
Not sure what you want to study? You’re not alone. NPR reported that most undergraduate students change their major two or three times before finally settling on one. Look for schools that offer a wide range of programs so that you can find the right niche.
The thought of paying for college tuition has the potential to send both parents and students into a frenzy. According to U.S. News & World Report, an average of 68.8 percent of students who graduated in 2014 had to borrow money to pay for tuition, bringing the average student debt for those who took out loans to $28,077.
However, a high tuition shouldn’t mean the elimination of your dream school. From scholarships and financial aid packages to private and federal loans, there are a number of ways to bring down that initial sticker price.
Most college websites include the Net Price Calculator. Following the simple instructions can help you determine the cost and aid differences across colleges and universities.
You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase “location, location, location.” Whether it’s about apartment hunting or choosing a college, it’s all about location.
Figure out if you prefer large cities or small towns, a remote location or the center of a lively community, access to public transportation or a quiet suburb. Consider how far you want to be from a major city. For example, a school on a suburban campus but minutes from Boston, like Bentley University, can provide the best of both worlds.
Choosing a university in a region where the seasons and weather suit your taste is also something you should consider.
Learn what it’s like to go to school in the Boston area.
Almost as important as location is choosing the size of your potential school. Contrary to what some may believe, NPR reported that the college you choose does not have to have a higher student population than your high school did. There are benefits to student bodies of all sizes.
While some students prefer large discussion halls, others benefit from smaller class sizes and more one-on-one time with professors. Small campus size allows for more personal interaction in the dining halls, classrooms and in various clubs and programs. It’s about figuring out what type of community works for you.
While campus housing shouldn’t be the final determining factor in your college choice, you should take it into consideration. Do you want to live on campus or in your own apartment? Would you prefer to have a single room or live with a roommate? Does a substance-free dorm appeal to you?
These are all questions to ask yourself when looking at the accommodations that a college has to offer. Exploring how you will be living before arriving on campus for your first semester will better prepare you for the four years ahead.
Check out the campus housing options at Bentley University.
If you want to participate in college athletics, there are a few things to know. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the largest and most well known overseer of varsity competition among colleges and universities. According to the NCAA, the organization sponsors 23 sports and participation as of the 2013-2014 academic year was up to 472,625 student athletes. The NCAA is broken down into three levels of play. Division I is the top level of play. As the largest and most competitive level, it is required to provide scholarships to all student-athletes. Division II is comprised of smaller athletic programs and is slightly less competitive. It’s rare for Division II schools to hand out full-ride scholarships, but there is typically some financial aid available. The least competitive is Division III, offering no scholarships. However, they still recruit athletes, so interest in a sport at this level may help your chances of getting into a university.
Students who may want to continue to play sports after high school, but at a less competitive level, should look into the various club and intramural sports offered by each college and university.
7) Campus Life
Once you have narrowed the search and settled on a list of potential colleges, visit each campus in person. You can look at all of the photographs and campus videos that you like, but a virtual tour simply won’t offer the same experience that a live campus tour will.
Stepping onto a university campus, seeing the daily happenings of the student body and checking out all of the facilities is the only way to get a true feel for the environment. Finding a campus life that matches your personality, interests and style is key to an engaging college life.
Schedule your campus tour at Bentley.