College Research1) Location, location, locationGeography plays a role in most students’ planning. Is the goal to experience a new environment far from home or are you hoping to commute to college? When you picture yourself as a university student, is the campus set in the action of a big city, or out in the suburbs? Are you hoping to spend afternoons at the beach (studying of course)? Or were you hoping for a climate that offered snowy winters? If you haven’t considered location, stop and think. There are thousands of colleges and universities in the United States, your list should be no longer than twenty possible matches.2) What Matters Most?What will make you want to stay in college, when life’s obstacles come your way? Connectedness. It is about going to the right college for you. Consider what you value and what you really expect from your university, beyond a good education. Would you be disappointed if your college didn’t have a football stadium that seats at least 10,000? Many universities require freshmen to live on campus. Some don’t allow freshmen to bring their car. Do you desire a conservative or religious based education or are you looking for a school with liberal policies regarding student behavior?3) MajorsWhile you aren’t expected to know exactly what you will major in now, you should narrow down your fields of interest and look into colleges that offer several majors you are considering. If you are wavering between Art History, Nursing, and Architecture, select a university with all three options, so that if you change majors you don’t have to change schools.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a Occupational Outlook Handbook, available in an online format at www.bls.gov/oco/4) Eligibility
Are you on track to meet the college’s entrance requirements? Take a look at the most recent Freshmen Profile, are your test scores and GPA in the range of the middle 50% of students admitted? How many students are admitted each year compared to the number of applicants?5) RetentionSpecifically research each school’s retention rate, that is the percentage of freshmen who return for the sophomore year. Also determine the average number of years to graduate, as well as percentage of students who do graduate.6) CostBe realistic, but don’t rely solely on sticker price to determine Cost of Attendance. In-state public universities appear to be the least expensive, but a private college that guarantees degrees can be completed in four years could be a much better deal. More on Cost of Attendance in the Financial Aid pages.7) SportsAre you an athlete hoping to earn an athletic scholarship? Check into the NCAA divisions, some are not allowed to give sports scholarships. Also, NCAA guidelines require a specific sequence of high school courses are completed. These vary from California’s A-G Requirements. Again, doing your research makes all the difference.8) The Social FactorBe honest with yourself and your parents. You will spend 18 hours each week in lectures and labs, 40 hours studying and completing assignments, but how will you allocate the rest of your waking minutes? The college experience includes networking, building relationships, and maturation. Diversity in students, faculty, and opportunities provide you with a wealth of learning experiences.
Attending the game against your school’s biggest rival or joining an intramural team and just having fun both contribute to your college experience. Nothing can replace involvement in clubs and sororities or fraternities. The option to study abroad, and the list of countries each college sends students to is worth a few minutes of your research.
Many students attend university-hosted lectures, performances, concerts, or outings. The schedule of special events is typically displayed prominently on a university website, look for it. Find out about traditions and annual events, as well as any superstitions, all of these will mold your understanding of what each college on your list has to offer you.