Factors to Consider When Choosing a College

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Choosing the college you want to attend is a big decision and there are many factors that you should consider when making the decision.

Future Career
What do you want to do when you finish college; what’s your ultimate goal? You should answer this question and then find colleges that will help you reach the answer. Your career path is something that you will spend 30-40+ years developing and the best training and foundation for that career comes in the form of the right college or training program. You want to make sure the one you pick has everything you need to be successful in your future career.

Campus Programs/Majors
Having everything you need to be successful in your future career boils down to the right program or major to get you into your field. A mistake that many students make is selecting a college for campus amenities or connections with family or friends, and then finding out that the college doesn’t have the program or major they really want. This can cause a lot of stress and anxiety due to picking a different major or transferring to a different school. Transfers can cost more as well because you may add on an extra year or two to complete your degree. Make sure that the colleges you consider have the program or major that is right for you, and that the program is in line with your career goals.

Campus Visit
Try and visit every campus you are considering. While websites and guidebooks give you an idea of what campus will be like, only an in-person visit will give you the full picture. Schedule a visit with the admissions office and personalize your visit by:

  • Attending a lecture in your chosen major
  • Meeting with faculty or students in your chosen department
  • Do an overnight visit and experience campus life
  • Sit down with a financial aid advisor and discuss cost and scholarship opportunities
  • Try the food in the cafeteria and check out the career center, student life, and the dorm
  • Ask lots of questions (download a Campus Visit Guide at icansucceed.org/materials)

Financial Aid
Make sure you are picking a college that is within your means and allows you to graduate with an affordable degree. Your basic college budget formula is this:

Starting Salary = Overall Borrowing Limit

This means that if you will make an average starting salary of $25,000, your total student loans for the full time you are in school should not exceed $25,000. This keeps your student loan payments at a reasonable level for repayment once you graduate. Make sure you are picking a school that is affordable for the life and career you plan to have after graduation.

Choosing a college can seem overwhelming but breaking down the decision into these categories and asking questions will help you make the best decision based on your future goals and set you up for future success.

Contributed by: Iowa College Access Network