10 Things To Research Before Deciding On A College


High school juniors will begin to look at potential colleges soon and seniors have already applied to many.  For each group, the key factors they will evaluate may include the look and size of the campus, quality of campus life, honors and study-abroad programs, fraternities and sororities, and athletic programs.

It is especially important to evaluate your financial fit at each of these schools prior to event visiting.

However, before the student makes a commitment to any college, here are ten important factors they should consider:

1) Number of Course Requirements

Course requirements vary greatly from school to school. You don’t want to find yourself stuck in courses that don’t interest you while you’re unable to take electives in areas that do interest you.

2) The flexibility of Course Requirements

Schools that require specific courses can put you in a bind if you’d rather take more advanced courses or need to take more remedial courses. Be sure to check that the school allows a choice of course-levels to satisfy your requirements. Also, keep in mind that many top professors avoid teaching required courses which route hundreds of students through them.

3) Availability of your College Major

Never assume your college of choice offers every possible major, especially if you have a specialized major in mind. It’s critical to check the list of majors at each college. Also, at certain colleges, some majors are not open to all students, especially those which are extremely popular (psychology or journalism) or require talent or training (music or art).

4) Availability of Desired Classes

College enrollments have increased in the past few years, but the faculty size has not grown commensurately. As a result, there may be long waiting lists for some classes and shortages in first-year classes for students who did not register at the earliest possible date. Be sure to check the availability of your desired courses before sending your acceptance letter to the college.

5) Availability of Professors Teaching the Course

A significant number of instructors are graduate students at state universities, and it’s important to know how much of your instruction, especially in the first years of college, will be designated to graduate student teachers. It’s okay if a regular professor gives the lectures and the grad student leads discussion sections; however, the real issue arises at schools where grad students are allowed to teach entire courses on their own.

6) Student/Faculty Ratio

You’re likely to get more individual attention from the faculty if you attend a school with a ratio of 10 to 20 students per professor. Once the student-ratio exceeds 20, you may not receive as much one-on-one attention from the professor.

7) Percentage of Students Who Graduate

A school with a graduation rate above 80% is good, and a graduation rate of 60 – 80% is normal; however, a school with a graduation rate under 60% is not good. Also, be sure to determine the average time a student takes to receive a degree; you may want to avoid schools whose students take an average of six to seven years to graduate.

8) Quality of the Career Placement Department

Very few students think to ask about the career placement department, but this should be a key item on your checklist. Students should be aware of the college’s job placement services, the percentage of graduates who are employed before graduation, and which companies and organizations usually recruit from the college.

9) Scholarship Requirements

Many students will be award institutional scholarships if they properly selected the right mix and number of colleges (6-12) but keeping them can sometimes be a little more difficult than realized.   Read the fine print on all awards and ask specifically if your student doesn’t meet the requirement one semester if you can earn it back.

Sometimes if the schools are on par with one another, the scholarship requirement might be the deciding factor.

10) The Total Cost of College

For a decade, we have been preaching know before you go, which means knowing the total cost of obtaining the degree before choosing that college and/or applying.

Our S.P.A.R.K. college funding process breaks down the cost of college so everyone can save into 3 stages:

Stage 1:  Select your financial aid strategy and understand your other cost-cutting options to identify how to not overpay on college.

Stage 2: Know before you go so you don’t make a costly mistake that will cost you a few extra years in the workforce.  Everyone will have a different net cost at every school on their lists so don’t rule out a school because of its high sticker price.  You might miss an awesome opportunity to select the right college and save.

Step 3: Build your four-year funding plan for each college on your list so you have peace of mind that you can pay the entire bill before the acceptance letters come to your student.

Can you imagine the relief of already knowing how you will pay for every school every year even if you aren’t fully funded today?  If you need a hand please schedule a free strategy call or at least view one of our live or online events.


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