Choosing a college is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your life. When you will be spending at least a couple years, and thousands of dollars, on something, you want to make sure you make sure it’s the perfect fit.
You most likely have some priorities when it comes to choosing your school. Obviously, you want to go to a school that offers a great education in the subject you’ve chosen to study. Extracurricular activities and sports might be important to you, or maybe you’re more interested in the cultural options nearby. Housing and social environment are always important, and of course, the cost. The list goes on, and everyone has different expectations for their college experience.
That being said, there are a few considerations that can potentially make or break the college experience that tend to be overlooked. They might not seem important right now, but are likely to matter over time.
1. Hidden Costs
College are generally upfront about the costs of attendance, including tuition, room and board, and fees, and when you budget for your education, you know to include costs for books, lab fees, and the like. But what about the other costs of college that you might not think about? For example, if you choose a college on the other side of the country, how will you get home for holidays and breaks? Will you need to store your belongings over the summer instead of bringing it all home? The cost of living in different areas can vary as well, which can take a bite out of your budget. These expenses can add up, so think about how you’ll manage them before making your decision.
2. Opportunities After Graduation
The rate of students who are employed or heading to graduate school is likely important to you as you compare schools. You want to know that you will be able to achieve your goals post-graduate, but when you look at those numbers, pay attention to where students are getting jobs or going to school. Consider whether you will be able to get into the best online MBA program or land a great job in your field – where you want to work. There’s a good chance that your school’s career services department will have a great placement record, but many of those jobs will be regional. In other words, if you go to school in Boston, expect to see recruiters and job-listings from Boston-based companies. That’s great if you want to stay in New England after graduation, but if you aren’t interested in sticking around after graduation, expect to do more of the legwork yourself.
3. Availability of Support Services
College can be challenging. Whether you are struggling with your course work, relationships, finances, or just being away from home, are there support services available? Nearly every school offers academic assistance through tutoring and other programs, as well as advising or career counseling, but what about other issues? Are there people you can talk to for help? You want to go to a student-focused school that will do everything possible to help you succeed and stay happy and healthy while doing so.
It may seem like a minor thing, but if you hate the cold and the snow, you probably don’t want to go to school in a cold climate – just like you may not want to go to school in the south if you don’t want to be hot. It’s not necessarily a “make or break” factor, but the weather can make a difference to your happiness at school.
5. Proximity to the ‘Outside World’
Some campuses are located right in the middle of the city, and students can go wherever they want easily, and have access to everything they could ever want or need. Other campuses are in rural towns, or at a great distance from the nearest town. While there is usually enough to keep you occupied, being far away from everything can be a problem when you just want to go to a movie and don’t have a car. Again, this might not be a deal breaker, but it’s something to consider.
6. Availability of Programs
You may be going to college to study, say, psychology now, but there’s a good chance that you won’t stay with that major. In fact, 80 percent of college students change their majors at least once. So, while you might be evaluating a college based on your chosen major now, pay attention to the other options as well.
Choosing a college is a big decision. When you look at all the angles, though, and know what you want, you’re more likely to make the right choice.