Some College Selection Criteria

by Dave Berry

What factors should you consider when selecting a college or university? For a lot of highschoolers, just knowing what factors to consider proves to be one of the biggest challenges ofcollege selection. Here's how to think about some of the more important issues:

1. Money. The majority of colleges and universities are very expensive. Unless you can get into a school that will meet the full demonstrated financial need of your family, a school's price tag must be a consideration. Resolving to work while you study at college is a noble sentiment, but the time and energy required by one or more part-time jobs can drain physical and mental reserves. Research the money issue carefully.

2. Location. Distance from home can make a big difference in a college student's budget. If you have to spend a couple hundred dollars every time you want to come home, don't forget to include that expense in your budget plans. Location also dictates what level of civilization you will have at your disposal. If you're at a small liberal arts college in the middle of a sparsely populated region of the country, you will come to miss having access to many of the amenities you enjoy now. Don't forget the weather factor. Rain, heat, and cold are all factors that will affect your college life.

3. Housing. The freshman experience is one of the great aspects of a college education. That experience can be made memorable (or forgettable) by where and how you live. The campus visit becomes crucial in determining just what the living arrangements are at any college or university. The larger the school, the more housing tends to vary. Go there. Check it out. You may decide that you and the dorm situation are incompatible. Also find out how students live. Are off- campus apartments affordable and available? The school you select will be your home for four years. Think about it.

4. Where your boyfriend or girlfriend goes. Every year some high school sweethearts pick the same college so that they can be together during their college studies. What's wrong with this picture? Obviously, if one of the sweethearts decides to break off the relationship (for any of a host of possible reasons), the other will be in Misery City, trapped on the same campus with their "ex" and tortured with every chance encounter. If there are solid, logical reasons for both of you to go to the same campus, that's great. Don't let the relationship be the deciding factor. Going where your buddies go is also another bad way to pick a college.

5. Other cautions. Don't pick a college just because: it's very popular or rated highly in rankings;
it has an attractive student-faculty ratio and average class size; its course catalog is impressive; it looks great in the viewbook; the faculty have great credentials; your parents or counselors love it; its library has a lot of books. These are all factors to consider but none should be the overriding one.