Colleges can be either public or private. Public colleges are those that are supported by the state in which they are located. Many highly ranked colleges in the United States are state-supported institutions. These colleges can often provide an excellent education at a price for an in-state resident that is much less than comparable private colleges. At the early stages of your investigation, I would encourage you to consider both private and public colleges.
While private colleges frequently cost more than comparable state institutions, they often have the financial means to offer generous need-based or scholarship-based financial aid. This aid can make the cost of a private college the same or less than attending your state college.
Many of the more selective private universities and colleges have a religious affiliation. The extent of spiritual influence varies. But at the beginning of your college search, we strongly encourage you to investigate all private colleges, regardless of religious affiliation.
Academics- What courses and majors are you looking for
The most important reason for going to college is to get an education. The type of academic atmosphere and variety of courses studied is an important factor to be considered when choosing a college. Be careful, however, of choosing a college based solely on it having a particular major or field of study. Research shows that 90% of all college graduates do not major in the field of study they originally had intended. This happens for several reasons.
First, most colleges have majors in subjects you have never before studied such as political science or anthropology. Second, as you gain experience and maturity in college, your interests may change. Take time to explore your options and be realistic about your talents. Be sure to pursue a course of study that is of genuine interest to you, not just one you think might lead to a good career.
If you do have a strong interest in a particular area, such as science, it is important to evaluate a college’s facilities and offerings in those areas to make sure they have adequate resources. Remember that many smaller colleges may not offer majors in certain professional fields, such as engineering, business, or physical therapy. If you are certain of a specific field of study, be sure that the colleges and universities you are considering offer that major.
Don’t exclude a smaller college, however, simply because you think the resources may be inadequate. Remember that all of the resources of a college are available to its undergraduate students whereas at a large university, many of the specialized equipment might be reserved for graduate students only. Some of the largest producers of PhD’s in this country are small colleges.
Atmosphere- Liberal, conservative or something in between
Each college has a particular “feel”. Many factors go into creating the feel of that college’s including the responsibility the administration of the college allows the students, the competitiveness of the students with each other and the students involvement in social concerns.
Every campus will have a different feel. What is important is to determine if the campus atmosphere will be comfortable for you as a person. The best advice regarding student life is to look for an intellectual and social climate in which you will feel comfortable and challenged.
There is no substitute to visiting the college to discovery how any college feels. By talking to students, professors and administration on a campus, students can gain a better feel for that college’s culture. Also, look around as you are on the campus. What activities are putting posters up, and what are people talking about? These are just a few of the issues to look at in understanding the feel of each college
Student body and gender- Co-ed college or single sex
While most campuses now are coed there are still some all women colleges available for students to consider. The women’s colleges can be an excellent choice for the right student as they often offer not only strong academics but also strong support for women that might be lacking in similar coed colleges. And lest you fear that you will be living in a convent, almost all women’s colleges now have some sort of relationship with coed schools so men will be around even in an all women’s college.
Setting- Where do you want to live
The physical environment of the college may be very important to you. Some people prefer the variety of activities offered by a large city. However, a large city requires certain adjustments that not everyone will be comfortable with. For instance, an inner city college will often not have the classic college campus look. Rather, it will consist of high rise classes rooms and dorms.
Others want to go to college in a more rural setting. These more rural campuses will often have the classic ivy covered buildings with beautiful scenery in all directions. But the excitement of a large city will be missing from such a campus and for those students seeking big time athletics or popular concert venues may not be comfortable in such a setting. The decision of a location and campus setting comes down to the question of where you would like to spend the next four years living.