Where To Start When Choosing A College

1 Mar 2023

Where To Start When Choosing A College

When you’re researching colleges, there’s an overwhelming amount of information to consider. Finding the perfect college takes careful research and planning. It’s important that investors, whether parents or not, understand what goes into making a sound investment – one that will pay off in years to come for those who put their hard-earned money towards earning a degree. As data reveals, there are clear advantages associated with investing in higher education; but choosing where best to invest your funds is key. In this blog post, we’ll give you insight on where to start when choosing a college so that your financial investments can have maximum impact! 

You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with too many options. So before diving straight into each school individually, compile a list that fits your criteria.  

Start Early 

The sooner you start researching colleges, the better prepared you’ll be. Begin by getting organized and setting deadlines so that you don’t miss any important milestones or deadlines. This includes understanding the timeline of the two major standardized tests, SAT and ACT, and when admissions applications are due. You can start by using websites like Niche or Scoir to help you get ideas of types of schools to be looking for if you’re not sure where to start. It’s best to start this narrowing process around sophomore year so that you will have junior and senior years to do your college visits.  


Think about where you would like to live while they attend college. Do you want to stay close to home or move away? Do you want to attend school online or in person? There are a lot of reputable schools online, and if that works best for you, find an online option that offers your degree and offers the type of communication level you prefer from your professors from afar. If in-person is more your cup of tea, one way to narrow the list is to determine the distance you’re willing to travel to school and compile a list within that radius.  


Once you have narrowed down the locations, consider cost and affordability. Tuition fees can vary greatly from school-to-school, so it is important to research all available financial aid options – including grants, scholarships, and loans – that may be available.  Additionally, some states offer special tuition deals for in-state students at public universities that can significantly lower costs.  Tuition, of course, is not the only expense associated with going to college.  Books, fees, room and board each semester can add up to a significant amount of money.  College websites will generally have a “net price calculator” that will break down the typical costs associated with enrollment, along with potential discounts or scholarships. 


What are you looking to get out of the college experience? What’s at the top of your list: top ranked academics, small class sizes, active campus life or big college game days? Consider your major and if there are relevant clubs to join. Finally, don’t forget about other aspects such as extracurricular activities that may not be “academically focused” but still play an important role in your overall collegiate experience. 


Keep in mind that most colleges require an application fee. So, the shorter the list the cheaper the cost. Niche or Scoir can also help you narrow your list by providing detailed profiles on each school with information such as size of campus, majors offered, admissions requirements, acceptance rate, average GPA/SAT/ACT scores of accepted students etc., as well as reviews from current students and alumni.  


Once you’ve gotten your list down to a number you can work with, visit campuses in person whenever possible; this will give you a much better feel for what each school has to offer than just reading online profiles or brochures ever could! Plus it will also allow you an opportunity to ask questions directly of current students as well as faculty members in their areas of interest (many schools host open houses specifically designed for prospective students).  


Finding the right college can be a challenge, but with some research and thoughtful consideration of your options, you’ll soon find yourself on the path to success. The key takeaway here is simple—start early and make sure you research all aspects of each school including cost and location along with academics and lifestyle so that you make the best decision possible for your future success!  


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.     

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More about the author: Calynn Mullins