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Tips for Choosing the Perfect College for You

Written by

Kristen Bentley

Date

March 2, 2018

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how to choose the right college

There are thousands of colleges in the United States and you need to choose one. This is the struggle that high school seniors, graduate students, and continuing education students face on a daily basis. From small community colleges to giant public universities, there are plenty of options. How do you go about choosing the perfect college for you? Here are a few tips.

Decide what you want to study. The first step in choosing the perfect college is to decide on your area of study. You might not have your exact major chosen, but you should have some idea what you plan to pursue. If you know you want to study business, you can immediately begin to remove colleges that do not offer business courses. If you are unsure of your course of study, then it might be helpful to choose a community college or a large school with loads of options.

Visit the College Mouse careers section, where you can explore hundreds of potential careers and job profiles. Each job profile features a detailed job description, as well as information on the education and degree requirements, salary, job outlook, and unemployment rates.

Decide how far away from home you want to be. Some people do not want to attend school far from where they live and some want to have an adventure attending college in a location that is far away from home. Colleges that are in or around big cities offer opportunities that colleges in small, rural towns do not offer. Sometimes, your chosen course of study should determine where you want to attend school. For example, if you plan to study agriculture, you might not want to study in a big city. Conversely, if you plan to study international business, you might not want to study in a tiny town.

College Mouse can help you narrow your options. Use our detailed state-by-state profiles to learn about what it is like to live and study in different states across the country. To help you find the right, accredited institution, we also list the top colleges and universities in each state.

Know your budget. While financial aid is a reality for many students, it is still important to set a budget. Believe it or not, there are actually colleges that are affordable. Some of the most affordable colleges are community colleges and in most cases, their courses transfer to many four-year colleges. If you know you are going to have issues with paying for college, it is in your best interest to contact the college’s financial aid office and talk to someone as soon as possible. Most students are surprised to find out how much money is actually available to them, especially if they work with the staff in the financial aid office.

Go on college visits. If you do not visit colleges, you are missing out helpful experiences. But, don’t just go at any time. The best time to visit college is during the school year, on a weekday, not on the weekends. While you are visiting, check out everything you can. See the dorms – especially the ones where freshmen live (if you are going to be a freshman). See the cafeterias and ask students about the food. Check out the library and see where people study. You should be able to see a classroom or two. And, if you are planning on studying a science, be sure to see what the labs look like. While a private tour might sound like a good idea, it is actually better to tour with a small group because people in the small group will ask questions that you might not consider.

Investigate career opportunities. While college can be a seriously fun experience, the ultimate goal of college is to get a degree and use it in a career. So, before you choose a school, check out the career placement opportunities and track record. Talk to a career placement specialist about internships and other ways that students get placed in front of employers. Ask about career fairs. Check out where graduates are currently working. Look at the way that alumni get involved with students and their career opportunities. If graduates are not getting jobs after graduating, then you might want to look elsewhere.

Go to a school event. If you want to see what a school has to offer, then go to an event. Whether you go to a sporting event, a concert, or a special lecture, you can learn something about the school. You can learn a lot about the social lives of students by the extracurricular activities that students choose to do. Some schools will repeatedly sell out football games or basketball games, while others have booming theater programs. While you are at the school events, you can talk to students and ask them what they really like about the school. You can also see how students treat each other, too.

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Written by:  Kristen Bentley

Kristen Bentley is a high school English teacher with over 20 years of experience in the classroom. She has been writing for several years. When she isn't working, she spends her time watching baseball, reading, and traveling.

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