Updated: Apr 16, 2021
Whether you’re just starting your college search or you’ve scheduled your college tours for this summer, revisiting your list of schools is super important. When choosing colleges, many students think about the parts that excite them the most--sports, social life, research opportunities, etc. However, there are foundational aspects that are often overlooked but can make all the difference in calling a college your home for four years. If you haven’t yet, think about these five factors for each of the colleges you’re thinking about or have chosen.
Whether you come from a small or large high school, college sizes can seem infinitely bigger. Student populations can range from a couple thousand to well over fifty thousand at some of the public state universities. With a small student body, you may have a closer community or know more people by name. In a larger population, there might be more diversity in terms of race, religion, ethnicity, etc. or a greater number of niche communities to join.
Knowing if you want to live in an urban, suburban, or rural environment is important, but researching the geographic area around the school is even more critical if you’re worried about getting off-campus. For instance, one school might be situated in a lively college town, but as soon as you leave town, there’s nothing for 100 miles. In addition, be aware of whether the school is an enclosed campus or built into the surrounding town or city.
If your family will be dependent on some type of financial aid to send you to college, then this is something you should pay attention to when researching schools. Private colleges with larger endowments tend to give out more generous financial aid packages because public schools rely on funding from their respective states. Certain schools will even pay full tuition and/or housing depending on your family’s total income.
Similar to school size, the ratio of faculty members to students can affect how you’ll learn and the relationships you may have with your instructors. Larger schools tend to have higher ratios, such as 1 faculty member for every 100 students. Smaller schools, in contrast, may have 1 faculty member for every 15 students. It can also depend on the size of an individual program, so research particular majors you’re interested in pursuing.
When considering a school’s location, you should also think about their housing options. Some schools will require you to live in university-affiliated housing for a certain number of years, which can range from just one to all four. There may be different types of housing, such as typical dormitory-style to newer apartments.
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