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Tips for Selecting a College from a College Student

Did you know that there are nearly 6,000 different colleges or universities in the United States alone? From community colleges to trade schools, to HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges & Universities), or even Ivy League and private universities, there are thousands of options out there to choose from.

With so many options available to us, making the decision on where to go to college is no easy task. This is especially true when you factor in the added pressure of your parents’ wishes versus your own wants and desires, not knowing how to decide and having to battle social stigmas when it comes to the university that you select.

Lucky for you, I am here to throw down college wisdom on how to select which university will be best for you as a current college student myself. As someone who was once in your exact shoes as a high school junior/senior trying to decide where to spend the next four years of my life, please understand I know the stress you are under.

My goal is to make this process as pain-free for you as possible, because honestly, selecting the college you will attend should be an exciting time for you. Below I have complied a list of tips to consider when deciding where you will spend the next four years of your life. After all, these next few years are quintessential, because the majority of us are growing and entering our young adult years.

This list is in no particular order because what may be important to one student may not necessarily be important for another. You should use this guide to help you weight what factors are most important to YOU when it comes to choosing a school, that way you can weight your options properly. Hopefully you find these tips helpful.

1. Major, Major or you’re in Danger!

Now, one of the most essential things to ensure when picking a college to attend, is to make sure that they offer your intended major. This may seem like a simple or obvious criteria, but not every college is going to offer the same major. And just because a college does offer a major, it does not mean that this is the best place to study that major at.

For example, if you’re interested in majoring in environmental law, chances are you’d want to go a university in Oregon, since the state is known for having outstanding environmental laws that you could easily help to defend. This would suit you better than say going to Concordia University, who is known for having one of the worse environmental law programs in the US.

Additionally, the graduation rate is also an important factor to consider because it lets you know the percentage of students that graduate with their degree from the university in a timely fashion (generally within six years). You want to make sure that on top of offering your intended major, that you will be able to complete your degree without too much stress or anguish.

2. Financial Aid Helps You Get Paid!

Being able to go to college for free is a dream for millions, yet a reality for a prestigious few. The average cost to attending a four year institution in America is about $35,000, which is a number most of us simply can’t afford.

For this reason, it is important to ensure that you select a university that is very generous when it comes to giving out financial aid money. I was able to have my first year of college paid off, thanks to financial aid and scholarships granted by the university I attended (Go BULLS!). While the U.S. government does offer grants & loans, there is usually a cap on the amount of money the government is willing to give. Being able to make up for what you can’t get from the government with your school funding is an enormous plus.

Even more, various colleges offer a variety of scholarships of their own, which students can earn for anywhere from one semester to their entire degree path. Some colleges also have programs geared towards low income individuals, that allow students to have their first summer semester paid for completely. The program name may vary depending on where you go, however it essentially is the same concept in the end.

If finances are a substantial concern for you when selecting a college, making sure there is enough financial funding from the university should be an important factor to consider.

3. University Costs Matter Too!

Speaking of finances, how much it costs to attend a college should also be put into consideration when making a selection. In America, the cost of college ranges drastically, and varies depending on where you decide to go. Universities costs can start as low as about $600 annually and can go as high as more than $81,000 annually (based on 2020-2021 tuition fees), so choose wisely!

Yes, this is going to be where you spend the next four years of your life, but you don’t want to be stuck paying off the debt created in these four years for the rest of your life. It’s important to be smart when taking out loans, and to only borrow what you absolutely need (if you need it at all)! After all, they call your college years the struggle years for a reason, so allow yourself to have the full experience.

4. Location, Location, Location!

Where your future university is located is definitely something to consider.

If you are a family orientated person, ensuring you are relatively close to home might be a priority for you. While I do think you should venture out and allow yourself to spend this time growing into your true self, ultimately the decision of how far away you go from home for school is completely up to you.

Alternatively, if you aren’t worried about your family, and actually want to get as far away from them as possible, distance isn’t a factor to worry about. If this is the case for you, you probably want a complete change of scenery from what you’ve grow up with, so finding a university that is the complete opposite of your hometown would be best.

If distance doesn’t matter, you should instead, worry about location in terms of what you want to be close to. Do you want to go to college in a large city or in a small rural town? Do you want to be 10 minutes away from the beach, or would you rather be deep in the desert? The options here are limitless, so you just need to know what it is you want. Try to take inventory of what environment you thrive best in. Some of us love warm weather year round, while others enjoy experiencing the seasons.

Where the college you attend is found will play a major role in your experience, so making sure it is the right fit for you is essential.

5. Get Active! Get Social!

If you consider yourself an athlete/jock or you’re a social butterfly, this area will definitely be a number one contender for you. When it comes to picking a college to attend, the sports and extracurricular activities available to you is something to look into. Maybe you are looking for a university that has a division one basketball team in hopes of making it pro or maybe you’ve been dreaming of rushing Alpha Kappa Alpha since the age of 12. Whatever the case, you should make sure that what you want is available at the university of your choice.

Taking a look into the various clubs, fraternities, sororities, sports, and other extracurriculars is an excellent idea. A key mistake students make is thinking that college is only about academics, when in reality this is the furthest from the truth.

Think about it, college is where you spend four years of your life growing into the young adult you will soon become. This is where you have a chance to experiment life with no adult figure breathing down your back (hopefully!) or trying to influence all of your decisions. College is the time to be free, be you and to do what you love. There are few rules to adhere to, but for the most part the world is your oyster, and you want to make sure your oyster is filled with activities and people that you truly enjoy.

This is why it is so important to take a look at the social outlets available for you at each university you are considering. If you know you’re someone who must be a part of a boating club, attending a university that is located in the middle of the mountains might not be for you. And if you are someone who has dreamed of rushing a frat or sorority for most of your life, attending a university like the University of Notre Dame or Boston College which have no Greek life presence, would not be in your best interest.

So, when you are selecting a university to attend, don’t forget to get active & look into the social opportunities available to you. Afterall, life shouldn’t just be all work and no play.

6. Campus Life Can Enhance Your Life

Another factor to consider when choosing a college is how the campus life is. A great way to do this is to go to a campus orientation for a university you are interested in attending. This way, you are able to get the feel of being an on-campus student. Even if you want to live off campus, campus life still is important because it includes your fellow students. Who will you most likely encounter everyday while on campus?

Universities can be commuter colleges, which usually means that most students drive to school. This causes campus to be pretty dead on the weekends, unless there’s some sort of event. If you’re someone who wants to live on campus and have that full college experience, you want to go to a university that is major on on-campus living. This way you can ensure campus (and your home) is lively at all times because most students are there. Some colleges actually require a first-year student to live on campus for their first year, so if this is the vibe you’re going for, a university like this would be great for you.

7. Yes, Class Size Does Matter

Now, if you’re thinking you’re going to go away to college and still have the same class size of the 20 to 30 students that you do now in high school, you are sadly mistaken. Unless you decide to attend a university that prides itself on small class sizes of course, and 9 times out of 10 this means attending a private college (which means more money).

Regardless of where you decide to go, the majority of universities have their fair share of 200+ student lecture classes, and this is definitely prevalent throughout your first year as you are taking the general courses.

If you know you are someone who needs a little more one on one time from a professor, it will behoove you to select a university with a small class size. On the other hand, if you know you’re probably going to be faking sick often, a class that has 200 students would do you justice because chances are that the professor won’t even notice that you are not there. Just be mindful of the fact that some professors require attendance and make it a part of your overall grade.

The benefit to the small class sizes is that your teacher likely has more time to attend to your needs and/or questions since he/she has fewer students to assist. The benefits to large class sizes include having the opportunity to find more people that you connect with, which will be great for making study groups or even lifelong friends.

There are pros and cons to each class-size, but if you opt to take online classes (most of which come with an extra fee), the class size won’t make a difference as it’s up to you to learn the material. At the end of the day, just think about how you learn best to help you make the choice.

8. Student Resources for the Win!

After you have verified that you can work towards your intended major at the university that you choose, you should look into the resources available to students. This is something that I personally wasn’t even aware of before going to college, but this is definitely a game changer in the selection process!

Student resources is anything that the university provides to its students to ensure they have the proper access to everything needed to earn your degree.

Universities offer a variety of resources like libraries, career services, mental health counseling, shuttle buses, academic advisors, tutoring, writing services, financial aid, camera and laptop rentals, bicycle and car rentals, and dining services to name a few. In today’s society most, if not all, of these options are available at most universities, however the quality and quantity of each resource will vary depending on the exact university.

The fact of the matter is that priority is placed on different areas at different universities, so it’s your job to decide what resources will benefit you most over the next four years. Once you know what resources are essential to you, you can cross out the colleges that don’t offer as many of those resources.

A prime example of this is if you are someone who struggles with writing essays, you might want to make sure that the school you attend has some kind of writing assistant service. This will guarantee that you can easily receive the help you need, to make sure you are turning in top tier essays every time. This also ensures that you are using all the resources provided to you.

9. Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself.

Finally, this is the last tip on the list, but it’s honestly the most helpful as well. When it comes to selecting the university you will attend, you have to take the time to do some introspection. As students, we often times look for advice from older people who have experiences to look back on. There is nothing wrong with this because with experience comes wisdom, however you know what is best for you better than anyone else.

We all have gut instincts, and these instincts are rarely wrong, so it’s best to get used to it from now. If you look within yourself and your heart, you most likely already know where you want to go to school. If this is the case, all that is left for you to do is to make sure you can meet all the requirements to get in the college of your dreams.

Most of all, just believe in yourself and the values that you hold true to you. If finances are an issue for you, but you’re going to school to be a doctor, the debt will be worth it. Chances are you will make your money back and then some. At the end of the day, you just need to weight your options to decide what is the right fit for you.



Those are my tips for selecting a college that is right for you. With all these factors to consider, I know things can easily get out of control with the selection process. Especially as high school seniors and juniors, I know you have enough on your plate already. These tips are to help you decide which university is right for you, but at the end of the day only you will truly know what is best for you.

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