Factors to consider when choosing a College or University

Choosing the right course

One of the worst situations you can get yourself into is enrolling in a course that does not interest you and you will have to choose a different course or transfer, which can be costly and time wasting.

You should choose a course based on your general interests and one that meets your future career objectives. You don’t have to decide on one, just have a range of options in mind. Later on, you might be looking at institutions that offers all the majors on your list. Having criteria like this can make your eventual decision much easier.

Ideally, if you already have a major selected you can search for a college based on that. This will give you the advantage of searching for institutions in the context of a larger career/life plan.

Choosing the right University

The real question is, what type of education do you want?

Large colleges usually have more resources. This can include campus facilities such as student housing, libraries, computer access, health centers, athletic facilities, culture and entertainment. Large research universities also tend to have large budgets to invest in faculty, classroom technology and research and development labs for science, engineering and other fields of study.

Small colleges have plenty to offer that larger institutions cannot. Many colleges tends to be more specialized in their courses and having small campus and class sizes. The overall college experience is usually much more intimate.

Most colleges and universities lean in one direction or another. A small private college will not have much to offer a student that wants to be an engineer. Student will want to apply to larger research universities that have the resources for engineering, as well as other technical and scientific fields.

Think of the type of school as your broadest level of criteria. It is very general and is geared to narrow down your list. Once you apply it with other factors, described below, your options will become clearer.

Accreditation

Before you spend any time investigating a college, first make sure it is accredited. This means that an officially licensed organization has vetted the school and reviewed its curriculum to verify that it meets basic academic standards for higher education.

A college or university can be nationally or regionally accredited. Within a college, specific schools, departments or programs can also have their own accreditation. This ensures that your degree will be recognized by employers and other institutions of higher education.

Geographic Location

Most students have an idea as to whether they would like to stay close to home or not. Do you want live in a big city or somewhere a little quieter? Does a party campus sound like a fun part of the college experience or just a distraction? What about weather and regional culture?

Perhaps most importantly, can you afford to go out-of-state, especially to a more expensive big city?

Also consider crime and safety, not just for the city but the campus itself. Almost every major school will provide crime statistics for campus, and many will include surrounding areas. You might think of college as a safe and fun place, and it is. But crime happens, and crime rates vary widely from school to school.

Overall Cost

Other factors may be more important to you personally, but in the end, cost may trump them all. There are so many education options out there, and they all require a substantial financial investment.

Tuition is only about half of the overall cost of attending college. Housing, food, transportation, books and other cost-of-living expenses contribute to the other half. If you’re looking at schools in expensive cities like Sydney or London your living expenses may be 2 to 3 times higher compared to less expensive cities in the suburb.

If money is more of an obstacle, you may want to consider nearer or less expensive countries.

Academic Quality

Academic quality is further down on this list, but not because it is less important. It is more specific. The factors listed above will help you narrow down your list. Academic quality may very well be the determining factor in your ultimate decision.

One thing that happens when you search for colleges is you learn more about college itself. Conducting the search will help inform your ideas about what you want to study and what you want to gain from your college experience.

Obviously you want well-qualified teachers, but you also want personal attention. Many professors at larger universities are more focused on research and delegate teaching to graduate students. Smaller universities and colleges tend to have more focus on the classroom and offer students greater access to their professors.