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How to Choose a College

No matter where you are in the search process, it's important that you make the best college decision for yourself. College is more than the place you get your diploma — it's valuable years where you grow professionally and personally. Here, we'll walk you through the top six factors you should consider when choosing a college that caters to your unique wants and needs.

What Factors Should You Consider When Choosing a College or University?

You have thousands of options when it comes to choosing a college. Though this can feel overwhelming, there are certain factors that can help shine a light on your dream college. Some factors you should consider when choosing a college include the following:

1. Location

Do you dream of traveling to other parts of the country, or do you prefer the stability of staying local to your hometown? Both have their benefits and may influence your college decision, especially in terms of costs.

You'll also want to consider your preference between rural and urban areas. Rural areas tend to have smaller colleges with a strong campus culture. Comparatively, colleges in urban cities are typically larger and provide greater access to outside opportunities, like recreational fun or internships.

2. Cost and Financial Aid

When choosing a college, consider the costs involved, including:

  • Tuition and fees
  • Room and board
  • Books and supplies
  • Transportation
  • Living expenses

Colleges strategically set their tuition based on factors like amenities, grants and total enrollment, so not every college has the same cost of attendance. In addition to tuition, think about your total cost of living — books for schools, rent for on-campus or off-campus housing, gas money or bus passes and more.

A good school offers reasonable tuition rates as well as financial aid packages, which help cover the outstanding costs of attending college. Learn more about a school's cost and financial aid by talking with an academic advisor.

3. School Size

Smaller schools have modest campuses that are comparatively easier to navigate. Program sizes are generally smaller, so you're likely to become friends with many people in your same field of study. Class sizes are typically smaller, too, so you can get to know your professors on a more personal level.

Bigger schools accommodate a larger student body, which means more buildings and larger classrooms. You're likely to run into familiar faces and get to know your professors, but at a different scale. You may also have more on-campus opportunities, like clubs, ranking sports teams and larger libraries.

4. Education and Majors

Smaller schools, like liberal arts colleges, don't offer as many programs as larger schools. They tend to offer more specialized degree programs and unique learning opportunities. Larger schools have the capability of offering more programs, which is why they attract a larger student body.

All colleges, whether small or large, excel in certain degree programs. For example, some schools specialize in business degrees and others in healthcare. Consider what you want to do and choose a college that complements your goals.

5. Campus Culture

College Campus Culture

Personal growth occurs both inside and outside the classroom. Choose a college that has a culture that aligns with your interests and personal goals. Some schools value Greek life and its benefits to the community, and other schools enjoy the thrill of college sports. Learn more about a school's culture by visiting their website or by scheduling a tour.

6. Resources for Success

The best college for you is one that wants you to succeed. When starting college, a lot of things are going to change, so make sure your well-being is supported via counseling services and health and wellness programs. And, if you require learning support, make sure your college can accommodate your needs.

4 Steps to Choosing the Right College

With these factors in mind, you can start the research process. Follow these four steps when choosing the best college program for you:

1. Research Schools

First, you need to know what's out there. Talk with an academic advisor to develop an understanding of what you're looking for in a college. Then, go online and see what different colleges have to offer. Look at their:

  • Mission statement
  • Campus culture
  • Room and board
  • Tuition and fees
  • Scholarship opportunities
  • Top programs
  • Amenities, like fitness centers or cafeterias
  • Surrounding town or city life

Having a general understanding of what's available helps you gain an understanding of what's best for you.

2. Make a List of Your Top Schools

As you research, make a list of your top six to 10 schools. Dive deeper into the specifics of each college and write descriptions of what you like and don't like. Research what graduated students say about their experience, familiarize yourself with program requirements and gather other helpful information. Consider how each school meets your needs and use this to rank your list from most to least preferred. 

3. Visit Schools

Once you have a few schools on your radar, it's time to visit them. Most colleges offer tours where you can experience the campus firsthand and learn more about the student life. Current students usually run college tours, and they're great sources to direct your questions to.

Come equipped with questions like:

  • Why did you choose this school?
  • What majors are popular?
  • How is your relationship with your professors?
  • How big are your classes?
  • What's it like to be a first-year student?
  • What fun things are there to do in the area?

Aside from the campus, tour the surrounding area, too. Look for access to bus stops, off-campus housing, grocery stores and other lifestyle necessities.

4. Compare Schools

After each visit, make a list of the things you liked and didn't like about the campus and surrounding areas. It's okay if your opinions change — in fact, it's normal if they do. Once you've visited all your top schools, compare your pros and cons lists. Consider things like tuition, things to do on and off campus, average class size and local job or internship opportunities. These will be important factors when making your final college decisions.

Find Out if Wingate University Is the Right School for You

Wingate University is a student-centric independent liberal arts college located in the Charlotte, North Carolina region. Are you a student who strives to make things better for themselves and those around them? If so, we can help you nurture the necessary knowledge and experience so you can succeed in your career and personal life.

Wingate University offers challenging courses, with plenty of one-on-one support from caring professors. We're considered a leader in healthcare education, with many of our students aspiring to be physician assistants, pharmacists, physical therapists or nurses. Many of these programs receive 100% pass rates on licensure exams.

Find out if Wingate University is the right fit for you by scheduling a visit today. Or, take a virtual tour from the comfort of your home!

Find Out if Wingate University Is the Right School for You