The Best Way to Decide Where to Go to College

See also: Online Learning

1. Make a List of Your Needs

Deciding what you want out of college can help you narrow down your choice. For example, is a social campus vital to you? If so, you might want a bigger school with multiple clubs. Suppose you know your major already. Then research schools that have good reviews for that department.

Another thing to factor in is your needs. For example, will you require specific classroom accommodations or outside help? Check to see what support services they offer, like tutoring. Write down this list, and make sure your dream university checks most of the boxes.

2. Visit the Campus in Person

You can do a lot of research online, but visit the campus if possible. This will give you a better feel of the atmosphere. It also provides you a chance to connect with professors and current students. You can also get a better idea of the school's layout and the condition of the facilities. It’s also a good idea to try the cafeteria food while there.

Try to attend a few campus visits so you have something to compare your experiences to. During the tour, take notes of things you liked. This will make it easier to remember when you’re making final decisions. Be sure to have questions ready for the visit, like what is the average class size?

3. Take Time to Do Your Research

Even though your schedule is busy, take the time to research different schools. Consider factors like class size and location. Read online student reviews and actively engage in college tours. Plus, keep in mind the application process can be lengthy. In the US, you apply through the Common App or the school's website. Keep in mind this will also include a fee of $30-$60.

4. Consider Your Budget

College in the US can cost around $27,330 for an in-state public college. Keep in mind you also need to budget for textbooks and meal plans. So, it’s essential to find one that offers good financial aid packages. You can get funding through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or individual schools.

In addition, look for outside scholarships from sites like and Fastweb. Compare these offers, so you understand what the out-of-pocket expenses will be. Keep in mind your overall budget when weighing final decisions.

5. Pay Attention to the Location

Deciding, where you want to study, is a big decision. You want a place that suits your climate and social preferences. For example, do you want to go to school in a warmer location or one with more moderate temperatures? You also want to consider the outside town area.

Do you want to be in a city that has plenty of nightlife? On the other hand, college towns may offer more of a sense of community. Keep in mind your location can impact the cost. Going out of state will usually raise your tuition and save on travel expenses.

6. Research Academic Programs Available

If you have already decided on your major, this helps narrow down your choice. Look for colleges that offer that subject. Read reviews about the professors and their accreditations. Visit the college, tour the academic facilities or even sit in on a class.

Although even if you’re undecided, you can still make a good choice. In this case, consider a liberal arts school with various majors. That way, you can explore your career interests further. Plus, look into the school's reputation online and ensure it’s accredited.

7. Consider the Class Size

The size of the school can influence its overall vibe. For example, smaller schools may offer more specialized programs and hands-on opportunities. You might even have a chance to design your own major. These universities have small class sizes, so you get to know your professors and peers.

This can make it easier to make friends and get personalized recommendation letters. On the other hand, larger schools offer more majors and clubs. Some also have more job connections and high-quality research facilities.

8. Notice the Campus Environment

Visiting the campus is an excellent way to feel the environment. You can see the type of students that go to the university and determine if you would fit in well. Also, think about things you want to do outside of classes.

For example, do you want to attend social events? Then look for a school with plenty of clubs and night life. If you’re more artistic, go for a liberal arts college that encourages creative expression. Suppose you’re an athlete; look for a college with a well-known sports program.

9. Look into Career Resources

Going to college is a steppingstone to getting a job or higher position. So, you want to find a school with a promising career center. Research what services are available. Do they offer on-campus job fairs or mock interviews?

If you can visit, stop by the office and get to know the staff. Also, check if they have connections to internships and on-campus job placements. Look into if they have a strong alumni network.

10. Trust Your Instincts

Choosing a college requires careful planning. Just remember, it also has to do with your gut feeling. If you feel at home on the campus, this is a good sign. Remember, the choice is yours, so try not to let outside opinions from friends and family sway you too much.

Once you have a good feeling about one place, consider why that might be. Maybe you like the professors or the overall atmosphere. Just keep in mind it should be a balance between logic and gut feelings.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide for Students

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How to Pick Your College

Choosing a college is a big decision. There are multiple factors to consider, such as location. So, follow these tips to find your dream school.

About the Author

Ava Roman (she/her) is the Managing Editor of Revivalist, a women’s lifestyle magazine that empowers women to live their most authentic life. When Ava is not writing you'll find her in a yoga class, advocating for body positivity, whipping up something delicious in the kitchen, or smashing the patriarchy.