• What Do I Look for in Colleges?


    Colleges are a mixture of students, faculty, administration, facilities, and on and off-campus activities. As you are researching the “personality” of a college to see if it will be right for you, make sure to visit while classes are in session. Summer visits are good, but the best way to really view a campus is when the bulk of the students are there.

    Look for campuses to hold “open houses” or “discovery days” throughout the year. Just remember, colleges are trying to sell themselves to you as much as you are trying to sell yourself to them, so look for the college where you will fit best, not the one who gave you the best t-shirt.

    The following is a list of factors that might influence the personality of a campus…it is not a complete list:

    ·         Size of the student body (undergraduate/graduate, full/part time)

    ·         Residential percentage (how many students live on/off campus)

    ·         Geographical mix of students & foreign study opportunities

    ·         Student scheduling & average length of time until graduation

    ·         Minimum & maximum class sizes, who teaches (TA? Professor?)

    ·         Student activities/clubs & leadership opportunities

    ·         Percentage of students returning for Sophomore year & grad rate

    ·         Greek life

    ·         Campus setting (urban, suburban, rural, isolated, etc.)

    ·         Academic offerings

    ·         Athletic programs

    ·         Admission requirements & cost

    ·         Your major or field of study

    ·         Geographic location


    The top factors most students consider when looking for “their college” are:

    1.   Small vs. Large – colleges can have a few hundred to tens of thousands of students.

    2.   Geographical location – how far away do you want to be? Will you be able to afford to get to and from college?

    3.   City vs. College Town – how much activity do you want around campus?

    4.   Field of Study or Major – Undecided majors are one of the more popular, and although this is OK, it is a good idea to research and evaluate your interests. When does your college of choice expect you to declare a major if you enroll as Undecided?

    5.   Cost – there is more on this in the financial aid section. It’s an important factor to consider once your award letters have all come in.


    A diverse list of colleges will include the top 3 types in this list:

    1.   Safety – a college you would enjoy attending where you have at least an 85-100% chance of being admitted based on your academic record. Spend most of your time looking and researching safety schools rather than reach schools. These are NOT inferior institutions, and they might offer good merit-based aid!

    2.   Possible – a college you would like to attend where you have about a 50-70% chance of being admitted.

    3.   Reach – a college you “dream” of attending where you have about a 25-40% chance of being admitted. Do not spend the majority of your time researching or visiting these schools. Concentrate on Safety and Possible.

    4.   Nearly Impossible – If your admission chance falls below 20%, is it worth it? Consider the cost of money and time to apply.

    Most students apply to 5-8 colleges (2-3 Safety, 2-4 Possible, 0-2 Reach). Your list will be completely determined based on what YOU are looking for and can afford in a college!! Your list should include the following ONLY:

    ·         Colleges you would be happy attending.

    ·         Colleges that meet your specific needs (interests, programs, etc.).

    ·         Colleges where you can succeed without being overwhelmed.

    ·         Colleges you have already researched and have or will visit.

    ·         Colleges where you have great potential for growth the next 4 years.

    ·         Colleges that are at a distance conducive for you family to travel to and from.