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7 Factors to Consider When Choosing a College
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Meet Katie, the summer 2016 ICI Intern: I’m Katie Goodrich, a rising senior journalism major at an ICI member campus. I believe in grammar, justice and the right to ice cream. I am fluent in English, sarcasm and gibberish. My talents include an incredible memory for '90s song lyrics, power naps and having just enough bad luck to produce great anecdotes.

 7 Factors to Consider When Choosing a College


 June 14, 2016

Selecting a school is a large, somewhat terrifying task. Here are 7 things to consider when you are trying to choose a college.


1. Academics

If a college or university doesn’t have the area you want to major in, you probably should look somewhere else.

Make sure the institution you’re looking at has a reputable program in your area of interest. See where their alums have gone on to work. That will give you a good idea of potential career fields you can enter with a degree from that school.

If you are still undecided, look into their exploratory program. Asking about the general requirements can help make your decision.


2. Cost

Don’t let a college’s price tag scare you off. You will receive a financial aid package from each university that includes scholarships, grants and maybe even tuition discounts. Ask an admission counselor about the average financial aid package for incoming students.

Every college is required by law to have a cost estimator on its website. Find that, and you can see the estimated financial aid and expected family contribution. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA will also give you a good idea of how much money you can get from the government. 

Cost isn’t everything when considering colleges, but it is something to be aware of. 


3. Size

Research the average class size and the student to faculty ratio of the colleges and universities on your list.

This is a personal choice. Some students are great auditory learners who will succeed in large lecture halls. Others excel in seminar-style classes with debate and questioning from peers and professors.

If a college lets you, sit in on a class. See if you like the setting and whether or not it fits your learning preferences. 

Size can also influence the number of student organizations, athletic teams and residency requirements.

 smiling college kids

4. Opportunities

What can the school offer you in addition to the degree?

Internships, co-ops and experiential learning all help make you successful, so see what other students have done.

The school may have other opportunities, such as studying abroad with a faculty member, joining a professional society for networking or in-house business run by students.

Every institution is unique, and some may have opportunities more in line with your wish list.

5. Location

Realtors say it’s all about location, location, location, and I agree.

A school’s location can decide if you commute to school, drive 3 hours or fly across the country. It can even influence how much you pay if you choose to attend a public institution.

Some schools are located in cities, while others are in college towns. This impacts how far you will travel to go grocery shopping or to complete internships.

Depending on where an institution is situated, its residency requirements might change. Downtown colleges might encourage commuting or renting, while suburban schools may require you to live on-campus for two or three years.

6. Peers 

When you visit a college, talk to the other students on the tour. They could be our classmates one day soon.

Current students are a great resource to ask questions and talk about their experiences. If you get along with a lot of them, there is a good chance you will like your peers at that college or university.

Your classmates will be the ones studying with you, taking study breaks with you and inspiring you. Do you want to be pushed to be your best or do you want to be placated?


7. Feeling

When you find your school, you will know what this means.

Visiting a campus you love will leave you dreaming about it later on. This feeling of home will start to sink in, and you will start counting down the days until classes start (which might feel unnatural at first).

At the end of the day, you need to go with your gut. Your pro and con list and Venn diagrams of 12 schools are great, but sometimes things are best decided with an indescribable feeling when things fall into place. 


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