During your college search, you’ll most likely receive heaps of college brochures in the mail, your social media pages and favorite websites will be overrun with college advertisements, and you may even have emails from admissions offices stacking up in your inbox. With the constant barrage of information, it can be difficult to figure out where to start in your search for good colleges. You’re not only wondering about the best colleges in general, but what you really want to know is, “What is the best college for me?”
While the reasons for choosing a college will vary from one person to the next, there are four essential factors to look for during your search for the right college.
1. A range of academic programs that makes you swoon (Okay, maybe we don’t have to go that far)
Perhaps the most obvious thing to look for in a college is the range and quality of a university’s academic programs. Colleges that offer a solid breadth of majors possess a more diverse campus culture. Plus, it allows you to explore different subjects if you haven’t quite nailed down your career path before attending your first college courses. A college that is well-known for certain fields of study can offer you top-notch faculty, research opportunities, and industry connections for internship, networking, or job opportunities.
2. College degrees that go beyond career prep
The reason you have decided to pursue one or more college degrees is to find a career, advance the one you have, or switch to another field … but why stop there? Find a college that goes beyond basic career prep. Find one that equips you with ethical decision-making and critical-thinking skills, and a greater understanding of and solutions for societal challenges to not only prepare you for a career, but for life.
3. A culture that will enhance your college life
Because you’re going to be spending much of your time at college, the campus culture of a university is important. College life is what you make of it—you can find just about any student club on campus, and if you can’t, you can start one—but the culture of campus is key. This is why visiting the campus is so important—it gives you an idea of the “feel” of the place. A lot of people say that they “just knew” a university was right for them after spending the day on campus.
4. Helpful financial aid offices
Now, you’re left with one more, cut-and-dry aspect of finding a good college: its cost and the amount of financial aid it offers. An article on collegedata.com cites these average costs of tuition and fees for the 2016–17 school year, according to College Board: $33,480 at private colleges, $9,650 for state residents at public colleges, and $24,930 for out-of-state residents attending public universities. These costs don’t include room and board, which typically tack on another $10,000–$15,000 to your bill.
It can be easy to get hung up on the cost of a college. Before you let sticker shock whittle down your list of colleges and universities, check out each college’s average financial aid packages, which can sometimes cut the cost of attending in half or more. Good colleges work with students and their families to make an education affordable.
So, how do you find out which colleges are the BEST?
It takes a little bit of research. Give college rankings some clout, but don’t fully rely on them. A college information website, such as College Board or the Princeton Review, can be helpful as you learn what majors are offered where and what each college costs. After that, your best bet is to visit each college’s website. Read the student and faculty stories, the list of employers where alumni work, and the blog, if you can find one. Get the authentic low-down from a university’s social media pages, where people share their honest reviews. Pay attention to the college’s voice on its website and social media accounts to determine if it sounds warm and welcoming, or transactional and detached.
When you find those colleges that have those three characteristics—reputable and varied academic programs, a focus on educating the whole person, and a campus culture that is the envy of all other colleges—plus, a willingness to work with you on the price tag, know that you’ve found a good college, where you can expand your knowledge, become part of a community, learn something about yourself, and go on to lead a successful professional and personal life.
Find out if Cabrini University is a good college for you! Cabrini offers 35+ majors in four academic schools, has reputable academic programs, incorporates an emphasis on social advocacy in its curriculum, provides a welcoming, inclusive environment with programs that help transition students to college, and has generous financial aid packages—98% of Cabrini students receive financial aid, with the average award being $16,500. Oh, and if you want to know about our rankings, check out our accolades page.