How to Select the Best School to Meet Your Educational Needs

bestschoolThe choice of which college to attend is a major decision for many high school graduates. Choosing the right college can mean the difference between an amazing four years that launches a person into a career they love and a miserable four years that does little to improve the person’s future. The school a person picks will determine his or her friends, living arrangements and future job opportunities. This is why smart high school graduates weigh their options carefully in order to pick the right school. There are several factors high school students should take into consideration when selecting the right college or university for them.

Location

For students planning on attending a traditional college—as in, not an online college—the college they pick will determine where they will live for the next four or more years of their life. Some students cannot imagine being too far from the comforts of home or are simply unable to leave their city or state because of work or family responsibilities. Others see college as the perfect opportunity to venture out and explore the world. Students have many options of where to attend colleges—from big cities to small towns or even foreign countries. If there is a place or type of place a student has always wanted to live, college can be an excellent time to move there.

Cost

While most people do not choose a school based on the cost, the cost is most definitely a factor in which schools students will be able to afford to attend. In-state tuition is generally cheaper than out-of-state tuition and community colleges are generally cheaper than private universities, though not always. Grants and scholarships can make even the most expensive schools affordable when a student’s tuition is paid for in part or in whole. When determining the cost of various schools, students should also consider the cost of living in various areas, as everything tends to cost more in big cities. Even if a student is able to comfortably afford tuition, the costs of housing, groceries and transportation may be more than a student can handle.

School Size

The size of the college is another factor students should take into consideration when choosing a college, though this factor is more a matter of personal preference than anything. Smaller colleges tend to offer advantages such as small class sizes and personalized instruction. Students and professors can really get to know each other and students can receive the help and direction they need, both academically and personally. On the other hand, larger colleges usually offer more opportunities such as clubs and sororities or fraternities. Larger colleges may be more established, have more resources and offer more connections. Larger colleges also often tend to be more diverse than smaller colleges. Students choosing a college should decide if they value the personalized education of a small school or the expanded opportunities and resources of a larger school.

Academics

It only makes sense that students look into a school’s academics when comparing colleges to find the right fit. Not all degree programs are the same. Some colleges require many general education classes on various subjects, while others mostly stick to the core subject matter for the fields students are pursuing. Some schools are challenging and expect students to excel in all areas, while others simply expect students to meet minimum competency requirements.

Students should research which degrees and majors are offered at various colleges. Even students who have already determined their major may want a school that offers other related majors in case they decide to shift their education focus slightly. Students should investigate the particular focus of the majors, as degrees do not match up at all schools. Students should look through course catalogues and see which classes are offered in particular, taking note to see if any classes are missing. This way, students hoping to work in a particular niche find the school that best equips them for it.

Practicums and Internships

While practicums and internships are helpful for all majors, they are absolutely vital to students majoring in special education, for example. Classroom teaching simply cannot be taught solely from textbooks; so much of the knowledge must be gained from hands-on experiences with real children in real special education classrooms. Students hoping to major in special education should inquire as to the number of field experiences offered and required within the major at various schools. They should also research the area around the school to ensure that the internships they receive will actually be beneficial. Students obtaining a special education degree should attend college in areas that actually have special education classes for them to observe and work in.

Good Fit

Lastly, once students have found a few colleges that look promising, students should schedule a few campus visits to determine which college is a good fit for them. “Good fit” is entirely subjective and will vary widely based on individual personalities and preferences, but it is essential to school success. Some students simply do better in some schools than others. While asking others their opinions on various schools and programs can be exceedingly helpful, students must decide for themselves where exactly they best belong.

It is not uncommon for high school graduates to spend months or even years agonizing over the choice of where to attend college. No one can blame them for wanting to make the absolute best decision and sometimes there is no easy way to know what that decision is. Students should keep in mind, however, that while not all colleges are created equal, some are not all that different either. Unless students are going into a very competitive and elite field, there are likely several excellent choices for which college to attend. Making the choice is not so much about avoiding the wrong college as it is choosing the very best one. By carefully considering the above factors, students hoping to make the best choice cannot go wrong.

NPR
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