Choosing a College

Selecting a college or university is one of the first major decisions of your life. This requires that you be both a discerning customer, in order to select the right learning experience for you, and be an effective salesperson, in order to sell yourself to an admissions board. But first you need to know what type of environment best suits your interests, needs, abilities, personality, learning style, and budget.

If you don't have a clear idea of what college you want to attend, the following list may help you focus your thinking on qualities that are important to you. With more than 3,000 colleges to choose from, you should be able to find one that suits your needs.

Review the following list of criteria that can help shape your list of target schools. Prioritize these factors in order of importance to you. Then check out Web sites such as,, or to search for colleges using some of the criteria important to you.

  • Size of School/Classes - What size of school and class would suit you best?
  • Public/Private - Is a public or private school significant in your selection criteria?
  • Religious Affiliation - Is it important to you to attend a school of a specific religious affiliation?
  • Coed or Single Sex - Do you feel more comfortable in a learning environment with people the same gender or do you prefer a coed setting?
  • Ethnic Mix - Is it important to you to be with students from other backgrounds?
  • Academic Criteria - Are the students' median SAT/ACT scores and average high school GPA comparable to yours?
  • Cost - What cost factors do you and your parents need to consider?
  • Availability of Scholarships - How important is the availability of scholarship programs to your selection of colleges?
  • Location of School - Is it important to you to be in a city, in a rural area, near your family, in a different state or country?
  • Specialized or Broad-based Academic Programs - Do you want a general course of study or a more specific content area?
  • Athletic Programs - Are athletic programs a factor in selecting a college?
  • College Facilities - What kind of living arrangement do you want? What are the dorm or other accommodations? What other facilities does the college have?
  • Study Abroad Programs - Is availability of study abroad programs important?
  • Internships/Job Placement/Counseling - Are these services important to you?
  • Faculty Credentials - What qualities or credentials are most important to you in faculty?