When building your college list, there are probably things that are very important to you. You want to make sure the college has the major you are considering. You want to make sure it is located in an area that is appealing to you. And, you want to make sure the college is affordable for you and your family. However, there are other items to consider when choosing the colleges that will go on your list. As you are building your college lists, make sure to check out these 13 factors when researching colleges.
1. Acceptance Rate
Get to know your chances of being admitted. Look at the acceptance rate (percent of students who were admitted out of all of the students who applied and completed their application), as well as average GPA and test scores of the admitted students. Do you fall within in the range? If the college has a high acceptance rate and you fall within or above the averages, you are likely to be admitted. If the college has a lower acceptance rate and you fall within the average, there is a possibility you will be admitted, but not necessarily.
2. Freshman Retention Rate
This rate tells us how many students return after their freshman year. A high rate usually indicates students are satisfied with their experience. If the institution has a low retention rate, it may be worth asking why students are not returning.
3. Graduation Rate
How many students graduate in four-years? How many students graduate in six years? While freshman retention rates may be high, graduation rates could be low. If graduation rates are low, ask why?
4. Course Availability
Many students take more than four years to graduate. Sometimes the reason is because students cannot register for the classes they need to graduate. Ask the institution if it is possible to graduate in four years. Students may also want to ask if it is difficult to register for the classes they need each semester/quarter. Sometimes classes required for certain majors might only be offered once a year.
5. Academic Support
Many students need some sort of academic support when in college. Many colleges offer freshman experience courses and offer resources to help students transition to college, such as classes on note taking, studying, and time management. Some students may need tutoring. Check out the academic support resources available to students and make sure they offer the things you will need.
6. Campus Safety
By law, all colleges and universities must have their crime statistics available for anyone who wants to see them. Campus tour guides typically cover campus safety features on campus, such as lighting, emergency phones, and campus escorts. However, the in depth crime statistics will give you a good idea about campus safety.
7. Surrounding Community
The college campus may be a serene place, but outside the college grounds, it may feel like a different world. Research the surrounding area by looking at maps and checking the city/town crime statistics. Students will need to leave campus during the time in college – will you feel comfortable leaving campus? Does the surrounding community have everything you need?
For students who plan on having a car on campus, what is the cost of the parking permit? For students who will not be bringing a car, is there reliable public transportation near the college? Is the public transportation system easy to navigate? Is it easy to travel to the airport or train station when using public transportation?
9. Campus Housing
Tour guides typically show the nicest residence halls on campus tours. However, it may not be the residence hall you will be placed in when housing assignments are made during the summer. Learn about all of the housing options and learn about the places you would like to live. This can work to a student’s benefit when filling out the housing application because they may allow you to list your preferred residence hall. In addition, learn about housing availability for upperclassmen. Some colleges can guarantee housing all four years, while others may only be able to guarantee housing for the first year.
10. Dining Services
Some colleges have multiple dining halls and eateries on campus, while others only have one. Check out the dining options available to ensure the colleges offer what you need. In addition, pay attention to the hours dining services are available. Smaller colleges may only be open during meals times, while larger colleges may offer continuous services throughout the day.
11. Health Services
Everyone gets sick, including college students who are away from home. Some colleges have hospitals on or near their campuses, and others have a health center with a nurse and/or doctor available during the day. Learn about the health services available on and near campus to ensure you will have the services you need while away from home.
12. Study Abroad
Many students want to study abroad while in college. However, study abroad programs are not the same at all colleges. Some colleges only offer a few options, while others have hundreds of options. Some colleges require or encourage study abroad, while others don’t say much about it. Learn about how study abroad works at the colleges you are considering. Some colleges may let students use financial aid to study abroad, while others do not. Some colleges will accept all of the courses you take abroad, while others will not.
13. Career Services
The ultimate goal for most students is to eventually go on to graduate school or find an amazing job after graduation. Learn about the services available to help students find jobs and internships. Some colleges have extensive career services, while others do not. You can find a great job with or without these services, but having great career services can open more doors and provide more opportunities.