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Six tips for choosing the right college for you

September 12, 2013

There are certain situations in life when using a magic eight ball to determine your future just isn’t the answer. Selecting a college or university is one of these times.

Before you commit, think about what really matters to you. What are you looking to gain from your college experience? Read the tips below and jot down a few “must have” requirements for the college you select.

Set your preferences. Think about size of the city, campus, student population, classroom, etc. People often associate small student populations and small class sizes with close-knit communities, but that can also lead to small opportunities after graduation. You want to find a college or university that can give you personalized attention but also the internship and job opportunities you need to be successful.

Location, location, location. When choosing where to attend college, you must weigh the importance of being close to home, near a major city or employment options and even the weather.

Walk a mile in a college student’s shoes. Take advantage of a campus tour. You are about to spend the next four years of your life at this school, so how could you make such a decision sight-unseen? Most universities have weekly visits available, but look for their larger open house events or overnight visit opportunities so you can spend more time on campus and interact with students and faculty as if you were already a student at that university.

Assess your financial needs. The cost of attending a particular college or university can often be the determining factor on your education. It is important to file a Free Application For Federal Student Aid ( to be eligible for grants, scholarships, work-study, or student or parent loans to help cover the cost of your education. Compare the net price calculator at all the schools you are considering attending and find out what type of merit scholarships are available to incoming students.

Find out the value of a degree from each university. Many students and parents put a lot of emphasis on how selective a college is to get admitted into, but more important is the ability to be successful after graduation. Find out how quickly new graduates from your university are getting jobs and what kind of starting salary you can expect. In 2011, 83 percent of the graduating class at Arizona State University had a job offer within 90 days of graduation. Graduates of ASU also made higher starting salaries than graduates of any other Arizona university. More.

Utilize admissions counselors. Email your admissions counselor at each school you are considering attending to introduce yourself and share your interests. Your counselor can share information about majors and resources available to you. You can also request to talk to current students who are from your hometown or state, or who are majoring in a program you would like to study.