There’s a lot to consider when choosing a college. If you’re just starting out, or if you’re already swamped with brochures and applications, the best way to decide which one is right for you is to determine your priorities. Below are some things to keep in mind when making your decision. Choose which qualities are most important to you and look for colleges that correspond with your needs and interests.
If you want to know more about the specific colleges you are interested in, you can locate a wealth of information through IllinoisMentor's Campus Tour, Comparative View, Matching Assistant and Distance Search.
College Criteria List
While the overall ranking and reputation of the college you’ll be attending is important, you should also take your particular area of study into account when deciding where to apply. A college that is renowned for engineering may not be the best place to study English literature or nursing.
Some students thrive in large, fast-paced environments, while others prefer small classes and more personalized attention. The student-teacher ratio is a good indicator of class size. The total number of students can give you an idea of the overall size of the college.
Whether you’ll be living in the dorms, in an apartment, or commuting from home, the campus you choose will be an integral part of your life. There's more to college than just classes. Don’t underestimate the role that your personality and values will play in your overall college experience. You may want to decide which, if any, of the following are most important to you: social and ethnic diversity, religious affiliation, political climate, athletic participation and/or social life.
For some, college is an opportunity to experience life in a new and distant place. Others prefer to stay close to their home and community. Decide where you think you’ll be most comfortable. Also consider whether you prefer an urban, suburban or more rural location.
Although cost should never be the only factor in deciding which college to attend, it is important to realistically evaluate your current financial situation, your future goals, and the options available to you. Apply for financial aid as early as possible so that you can accurately assess what you’ll have to pay or borrow. Investigate the less obvious factors that impact college costs, such as: Are you required to live in the dorms? What types of meal plans are available? How long does it take the average student to complete a degree? Are required courses offered in the summer? The answers to these questions, and information about job-placement statistics for your major, average starting salaries, and career services offered through the college, provide a bigger picture than the cost of tuition alone.