There are more than 3,000 institutions offering higher education in the U.S. but not all of them are right for you. Before you choose your college, it’s important that you know certain things like what you’re getting yourself into. With so many factors to consider, it can be easy to overlook some of the most important ones—but not with our help!
Keep reading for advice on everything from choosing a school that fits your interests and budget to making connections after graduation and finding a career that fits you.
Choose a school that fits your interests
One of the best ways to make sure you’ll enjoy college is to find a major that piques your interest. Choosing a subject that interests you will make your time in school more meaningful and, if you end up with a job in that field, more rewarding. Finding a major that’s both interesting and relevant to the real world is key to a successful college experience. When you pick a major, you’ll want to think about the following:
- What are your long-term career goals?
- What do you want to do with your degree?
- What are your short-term career goals?
- What types of jobs are in demand now and what skills do you need to have in order to pursue them?
- What are your general interests?
- What gets you excited about school?
Research the cost of attending before you apply
When you’re choosing a college, it’s crucial to do some research on the cost of attendance and how much financial aid you may qualify for. You may be surprised to see that your dream school is much more expensive than you anticipated. If you find that you can’t afford to attend, you may want to consider switching to a less expensive school.
A little research before you apply can help you avoid this potential problem. Find and save the financial aid information for the schools you want to apply to. You can do this by visiting the financial aid website for each school, or by using a free financial aid app. Find out how much financial aid you may qualify for, including grant and scholarship options.
Network with faculty and alumni
Networking is one of the best things you can do when you’re a college freshman. Freshmen are often new to campus and are looking for ways to make friends and meet people. Networking can be done in person through one-on-one conversations or online through social media.
It’s important to choose a college that has a robust freshman networking program where you can meet your future classmates and make connections with the people who will be your future colleagues. There are many ways you can network as a freshman.
You can make an effort to attend campus events, join a student organization, or sign up for your school’s freshman orientation program. These activities can help you make connections with other students and introduce you to faculty members who can help you find internships or jobs after graduation.
Go to an open house or campus visit to get a feel for the school
Visiting a college campus and meeting students and faculty members gives you a better idea of what to expect at the school and who you’ll be surrounded by. If you can’t afford to take an official college tour, consider visiting an open house or a nearby community college to get a feel for the campus. Open houses allow you to tour the campus with a tour guide, and explore the student life on campus.
These events are typically led by a current student who can answer your questions and give you a better understanding of the college culture. You can also check out a nearby community college or a nearby state university. Community colleges usually have lower tuition costs than four-year universities and are good options for first-time college students who have a tight budget.
Ask yourself why you want to go to school there
Think about why you want to attend college and why you want to go to your specific school. It’s important to figure out why you want to go to school and what you want to get out of it. College is a time for you to figure out your passions, pick a major, and explore your interests. If you don’t know why you want to go to college or what you want to get out of it, then you’ll be unhappy in the long run.
This can help you decide where to apply and which college is right for you. Maybe you want to go to school to improve your job prospects or increase your salary. Maybe you want to go to school so you can travel and experience different cultures. Or maybe you just want to make some friends.
Know what career path you want to take after graduation
Once you know what you want to get out of college, it’s important to know what you want to do with your degree. There are thousands of careers that don’t require a college degree, so you’ll want to make sure you choose a career that is relevant to the real world.
Explore your options by researching careers that interest you and by researching viable career paths. For example, are there career paths that are related to your major, or do you have any specific skills that you would like to learn? There are many ways to research careers and make sure you are choosing a viable path.
Explore online and community college options first
If you are not quite sure which college to attend, consider taking advantage of online and community college options. Many states offer a variety of affordable, low-quality online and community college programs. But these options can also be a good way to try out a new type of education before committing to a full-time, in-person program.
If you decide to pursue an online degree program, make sure you choose a program you are interested in and will be able to complete. It’s also important to keep in mind that online degree programs typically have less student support than in-person programs.
Estimate how much money you’ll need for tuition, fees, and living expenses
Before you apply, it’s important to estimate how much you’ll need for tuition, fees, and living expenses. The amount you will need depends on your specific situation and may be more than you expect. Keep in mind that you may be eligible for financial aid, and some colleges offer grants and scholarships that you may be able to receive without applying.
Let’s say you’re planning to attend college full-time for one year. According to the Department of Education, the average annual cost of attendance is $8,967. Let’s say you need to withdraw $10,000 and you receive no grants or scholarships. You would need to earn a traditional college-level scholarship of $5,000 (or $10,000 if you are a minority) to be able to afford college.
Choosing the right college can be a challenging process, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to choosing the right college for you. Choose a school that fits your interests, research the cost of attendance before you apply, and network with faculty and alumni.
Also go to an open house or campus visit to get a feel for the school, and ask yourself why you want to go to school there, know what career path you want to take after graduation, explore online and community college options first, estimate how much money you’ll need for tuition, fees, and living expenses, and bottom line