College-bound? Questions to Ask When Finding the Right Fit

We can’t lie: The college search process is intimidating. You’re deciding where you’ll spend the next four years, shape your future, and drop some serious cash. It’s not a decision you want to mess up, but how do you know you’re making the right choice when you’ve never done this before? If you want to avoid being among the 27% of college freshmen who transfer or drop out, ask yourself these questions from 4kidzports to zero in on your best fit.

What do you want to study?

You don’t need to declare a major right away. However, your college of choice should offer a variety of majors that interest you.

Do you want a practical major like medicine, business, or law? Look at career-oriented colleges with strong pre-professional programs. Interested in STEM? Many colleges are known for their robust science, tech, and engineering schools. Plan to pursue graduate school? Liberal arts colleges are full of opportunities to explore your interests and build academic skills.

What type of degree will you pursue?

A bachelor’s degree is the most popular route for high school students. However, some students earn a two-year degree so they can start working and earning sooner while others opt for joint degree programs that combine a bachelor’s and master’s degree into an accelerated track.

What type of academic experience do you want?

College rankings give some insight into a school’s academic experience, but they don’t provide the full picture. Students should also examine these factors when rating a college’s academic experience:

    Retention rates.
    Graduation rates.
    Average student debt.
    Student/faculty ratio.
    Academic support services.
    Study abroad opportunities.
    Extracurricular and special programs.

Do you want a traditional college experience?

When students think about going to college, most of them imagine the traditional college experience complete with dorms and campus culture. But is the “traditional” experience the right one for you? While some students prefer the structure and social aspects of the on-campus experience, other students want flexibility and the option to learn at their own pace.

Students can take a variety of non-traditional routes. You might choose to complete your general education requirements at community college before transferring to a four-year school, take classes part-time while working, or enroll in an online degree program.

Is online college right for you?

In addition to their flexibility, nontraditional options like online college are more affordable than the average college degree. However, not every degree — nor every student — is meant for online learning. Degrees in tech, such as computer science and information technology, which are a great pathway to lucrative careers in fields like programming and web development, are well-suited to online education. Online education also requires students to be self-disciplined and have strong communication skills.

Do you want to graduate with work experience?

Students pursuing a career-oriented degree need a college that helps them get a strong start in their professional life. There’s no better place for these motivated students than colleges with strong internship and co-op programs. Internships and co-ops give students the type of hands-on work experience that employers want from candidates.

How important is financial aid?

College affordability is a big question weighing on families’ minds today, but don’t let a high sticker price scare you away. Some colleges are more generous than others when it comes to financial aid. These differences can have a big impact on out-of-pocket costs. For example, the average need-based scholarship at the University of Virginia leaves an out-of-pocket cost of only $5,207 despite its high in-state tuition. At top-rated private universities like Yale and Princeton, the average need-based scholarship is over $50,000 a year. And, of course, if you’re a college athlete, there’s always a chance you’ll get an athletic scholarship, which could be for a full ride or could cover a significant share of costs.

There’s a lot to consider when choosing the best college fit for you. Rather than getting caught up in college rankings and glossy brochures, focus on what you really want to gain from your college education.

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Article by: Jenny Miller