Choosing a College: Academic Fit

College is a major investment that will help determine your future job opportunities and financial success. You want to make the best decision for your future, but it can be difficult to find a school that is the right academic fit, especially when there are so many options. This post will help you make a more informed decision as you narrow your college search. 

How Can You Choose A College That is Right For You?

We’ll go over the major factors you should consider when making this crucial choice. There is a lot that goes into your college decision. You have to weigh your career goals, social needs, your financial situation, and other important elements. You don’t want to waste your time or money during the next four years. 

Majors and Academic Opportunities 

As you plan your academic future and choose a school, think about your learning style, interests, and career plans. You don’t have to choose a major right away, but knowing what you want to do with your college degree matters, especially as you look at schools. 

Each college offers different programs, classes, and academic opportunities that will help you along your career path, so sure you select schools that meet your specific needs.

When you research colleges, see what majors they offer, what kind of research you can participate in, and how classes are taught. If you don’t know what you want to do right now, pick a school with a wide variety of majors and programs.

Campus Environment

 Academics are important, but students also need to examine campus culture. Every school has unique characteristics that make them stand out. Visiting schools over the summer and fall can help you decide which campuses are right for you. This way you can get a first-hand feel for what your preferred school is like.

As you consider your choices, ask yourself a few important questions. Do you want to join a campus that has religious affiliations? Are you interested in a campus that has certain political leanings? Do you want to be a part of Greek life or root for college sports teams? How much importance do you place on ethnic diversity and representation? In short, what aspects of campus life matter most to you? 

Cost and Financial Aid

College is not cheap, and the price of higher education is only increasing. Whether you paying for college yourself, take out loans, or get help from family, look into the financial side of college. What are the yearly tuition and boarding rates for schools you want to attend? 

If you have college savings and don’t have to worry about getting financial aid, this might not be as important to you. Students who want to graduate debt-free or with minimal debt need to do more research. Specific schools might offer great financial aid packages, scholarships, and lower rates, which are important if you’re trying to save money.  

Location 

Location is another factor students should consider. Do you want to spend the next four years in a close-knit college town or a bustling city? Each student will have their own preferences, but location can impact campus culture and the cost of your education in significant ways, especially if you want to go to school in another state.

Attending out-of-state schools can be a fun new adventure, but you have to consider the cost. Out-of-state tuition is not cheap. Though it may not be exciting to stay in-state for college, there are some major benefits: you won’t have to pay for airfare, travel will be cheaper when you move in and out of your dorm, and you can be closer to home and your support system. Want to bring your laundry home for your parents to do on weekends? That’s going to be a real hassle if you live hours away.

Size of The School

Are you more comfortable on a larger campus with tons of student organizations, sports teams, bustling crowds, and a range of extracurriculars? Or maybe you’re more interested in attending a smaller school that provides a more personal college experience. Each person will want something different out of their college experience, so weigh out the pros and cons of big and small schools.

Bigger schools tend to have more majors, bigger libraries, larger research centers, and better funding. Smaller schools, on the other hand, might have more specialized academic programs and provide students with more one-on-one learning. 

Extracurriculars and Sports

See what clubs, student organizations, and extracurriculars are available at schools you plan on applying to. Most colleges will have a wide range of student organizations and activities. This includes arts clubs, advocacy groups, outdoors/nature groups, clubs with niche interests, and even cultural programming groups. 

The availability of intramural sports and club sports could also play a role in your decision. Depending on how interested you are in participating in sports, some schools might be a better fit for you. Not every student is interested in joining clubs or playing a sport, but if you want to be an active member of your college, look into this part of campus life. 

Support Systems

To be successful in the long run, students should look into campus support systems. You might think you can accomplish everything on your own, but college life can get tough. It’s important to see how various schools can help you with academic and mental health struggles.  

Are there peer tutors on campus, writing centers, and other academic support systems at the schools you like? What about health services, mental health counselors, and support groups for minorities?

Asking these questions is important, especially if you have medical conditions, learning disabilities, or if you are far away from home. You want to have access to the best resources and support while you are in school. 

Career Development and Networking Opportunities

Finally, look into career development and networking opportunities. Though it may seem a long way off, someday you will graduate from college and have to enter the working world. You can visit colleges’ career development centers or call them. Students can also talk to guidance counselors, the alumni network, and other college officials they meet while visiting college campuses

Essentially, see how colleges will support your professional goals during school and once you graduate. Schools you apply to should have strong academic counseling and career guidance options. You also want access to internships, networking events with alumni, job fairs, and other resources that will help you along your career path. 

If you are interested in learning more about the college admissions process, or about college life in general, check out more of our blogs and resources here at HelloCollege. We believe that preparing for university shouldn’t be scary, and we are here to help guide you or your student through the process every step of the way.

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Rasha Myers

Rasha Myers

Rasha, an educator, and administrator with over a decade of experience, believes education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world. Passionate about developing future generations, she has devoted her life to seeing an increase in both the availability and quality of education. As they embark upon the college admissions process, Rasha strives to ensure that every student has access to the tools and resources they need to make the best financial and educational decisions. Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. She earned a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction and a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Tuskegee University.