Hopefully, high school juniors will begin to look at potential colleges now, and some of the critical 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.
However, before the student finalizes their choices, here are nine essential factors they should research:
1) Availability of your College Major
At Peachtree, we have found families that use a career pathway approach do not become part of the 33% of students that transfer colleges due to not identifying potential majors before applying.
Never assume your college of choice offers every possible major, especially if you have a specialized field of study. It’s crucial to check the list of majors at each college.
Also, at many colleges, some majors are not open to all students, especially those that are extremely popular (psychology or journalism) or require talent or training (music or art).
2) Availability of Professors Teaching the Course
At most state institutions and research universities, a significant number of instructors are graduate students, and you should know how much of your class, especially in the first years of college, will be not be designated to tenured professors.
It’s ok for a graduate student to lead discussion sections, but not okay if a regular professor does not give the lectures.
Do you really want to pay top dollar for your student to be educated by a graduate student?
3) Student/Faculty Ratio
Schools with a ratio of 10 to 20 students per professor are usually better learning environments for most students. Once the student-ratio exceeds 20, you may not receive as much one-on-one attention from the professor
Also, many students in their first year need the accountability of being in classes where a teacher will notice their absence.
4) Percentage of Students Who Graduate in 4 Years
A school with a graduation rate above 80% is excellent, and a graduation rate between 60 – 80% is pretty standard; however, a school with a graduation rate under 60% is not ideal unless there is a reasonable explanation.
As an example, Kennesaw State University has a lower 4-year graduation rate given it has been a commuter school for many years. If you looked solely at the lower 4-year rate, you might rule out this school and miss that KSU has some of the best department level majors in Georgia’s public university system.
5) Quality of the Career Placement Department
Always begin with the end in mind. Very few students think to ask about the career placement department, but this should be an essential 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.
6) The Total Cost of College – Know it or be prepared to overpay
For nearly a decade, we have a saying you need a system that helps you “Know Before You Go!” If you plan to attend college, you should know the total cost of obtaining the degree before choosing that college, and you should also research any opportunities to receive financial aid to help offset that total cost.
Knowing if the college rewards a high-achieving student, how it disperses financial aid, what grants and scholarships are available, and the average student debt after graduating are all necessary pieces of information for making an informed decision.
7) Number of Course Requirements
Course requirements vary significantly 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.
Don’t assume dual enrollment will lessen the load since many colleges have a different view on how those credits are applied. If you are using dual enrollment as a cost savings strategy, please check with the schools on how they will credit those classes. Many families waste a lot of their students time on courses that do not help achieve your goals.
8) 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 courses for students who did not register at the earliest possible date. This is a common occurrence at many larger universities so ask how colleges are handling these problems when you visit your college choices.
9) Availability of Online Classes And Summer School
Some colleges offer online classes, which can be cheaper than traditional courses, and some students prefer to go online to take courses that aren’t in their major so they can focus more time classes in the field of interest.
Additionally, summer courses can be a great way of saving costs and fulfilling requirements. Summer courses are usually one-third of the cost of regular semester class and should be part of your overall college plan if you want to graduate on time and save money.
These are just a small sample of the many ways a family can eliminate common mistakes in the college planning process.
If you need some help or want to learn more, please schedule a free 30-minute strategy call.