Using Facts to Make an Informed Decision About College

College Decision Making Decoded

When was the last time you saw an article or magazine touting a top ten list of best colleges in the world?  Lists of this magnitude are created with the primary purposes of selling magazines.  Period.  The best university in Texas or California may have no bearing on your college choice because your educational goals and aspirations are solely yours.  What you will do is ignore the glitz and gloss of the magazines and establish a working priority list of criteria this is important to you.

Take the time to answer the following questions in earnest.  The answers to these questions will help guide you towards a working list of the best colleges for you and not a prototype of a hypothetical college student.

  • What do I enjoy doing? 
  • What do I not enjoy doing?
  • Why do I want to attend college?
  • How would this move me closer to my goals and career aspirations?
  • What are my long-term goals?
  • Do I want a specialized degree (nursing, mechanic, software engineering,  cosmetology, dental, etc.) or a liberal arts education?
  • How important is a classroom-based experience versus earning a degree on-line?
  • Is a two-year or four-year program a better fit for me?
  • How important is it to attend a school near my home? 
  • What type of financial assistance is available to me? 
  • Which grants and/or scholarships can I apply for? 
  • How important is cost in making a final decision? 
  • Will it be necessary to have a job while going to school?  If so, what jobs are available and how will that fit with my school schedule? 
  • Am I inclined to move to a certain part of the country versus another part of the country?
  • Would it be better to live on-campus or off-campus? 
  • Would I prefer a small or large college? 
  • How important is a diverse student body?
  • How important is the population density in selecting a college albeit rural, metro, or a suburban setting?
  • Is joining a fraternity or sorority an important factor for me?
  • Are my grades fit for a selective school?  
  • How rigorous do I want my academic life to be? 
  • Is competing in sports important?  Would I be eligible for sports scholarships?   If not, are intermural sports an important aspect of student life?
  • Do I want a curricular design that fosters more independence or more collaborative work? 
  • Does my preferred area of study require teaching faculty with specialization and/or facilities with special services/equipment?
  • Is graduate school important?  Is it important to attend graduate school at the same institution as the college I earned my undergraduate degree?

Finding the Best College or University

Now that you have a better understanding of what you want for your future and your self-designed criteria for college, it’s time to get to work on a list of college programs that fit your criteria.  If you know the college degree program you would like to pursue, start here; otherwise, a general search on MatchCollege will get a working list in place for you to consider.  Unlike the old, clunky methods of buying a 600 page book to help you winnow down your list to a few colleges we live in an era where digital rules.  Access to thousands upon thousands of state colleges, private universities, career colleges, liberal arts schools, and technical institutes are a click away.

Once you find a college or university that is of interest to you, simply do some research.  Admission, course schedules, student services, financial aid, tuition, enrollment, maps, virtual tours, college credits, test scores, acceptance rates, graduation rates, athletic programs, nearby colleges, and a cross-section of degrees offered are all listed in a single webpage.

During this process, stay organized and focused on your overarching goals.  Take exceptional note, stay inquisitive about the process, learn from others, and a clear roadmap of your future.  For an in-depth process flow during the college admission process, read the MatchCollege Complete Guide to the College Admission Process in its entirety.  For additional resources, make sure to visit MatchCollege and subscribe to our blog for the latest in college information.