Deciding which college to go to is a huge decision. Most people think you should just look at nationwide rankings and go for whichever ones are at the top. While this is a strategy, it might not be the most feasible, or even the best way of picking which university you are going to call home for the next 4 years. There are, in fact, many factors to look at, weigh, and judge before taking that final leap. Here are the main things to consider before making a massive decision that will affect the rest of your life.
Before deciding which university to go to you need to make sure that they have the program that you are interested in. If you're interested in mathematics, then look for universities that offer not just one, but a variety of mathematics and mathematics-related programs. From there you need to ask yourself additional questions: do these programs offer work experience? Are you required to conduct research during your studies? What are the admission requirements? Before looking at anything else, decide if this school is going to match your needs professionally and academically.
For many people applying to college, this is going to be the first time that you're living far away from your home and family. While it may sound scary, it's also a time to build your life in a place that is better suited to you. So when picking a university keep an eye out for factors like the size of the city or town that it's in. Consider how far away from home it is and, if it is far, is there an airport nearby so you can go and visit your hometown if you need to? If you plan on building roots near where you're going to college you may also need to consider things like rent and housing prices, along with industries work in that area.
If you're a bookworm who prefers to spend weekends studying in the library, then going to a university where sports play a major role in campus life probably isn't for you. Don't be afraid to pick a campus that matches your personality. If you're outgoing, then going to a big school where everyone lives in dorms or on-campus housing is going to give you lots of opportunities to meet new people. Even thinking about the architecture is important - do you envision yourself going to a university that has been renovated? Or do you prefer something with a more colonial vibe? If you're single then thinking about the ratio of boys to girls is also worth considering.
While most students choose to live on-campus for their first year, many will often move into an apartment for the majority of their time in college. With that in mind, it's important to consider the cost of living wherever you're thinking about studying. For example, things along the coast tend to be a bit more expensive than things in other parts of the country - can you afford it? If you want to live on campus you'll need to consider what kinds of amenities the university offers its students.
It's hard to study on an empty stomach which means that food is going to play a very important part for the next few years! Think about where you're going to eat while you're away for college. Does the school have places where you can buy affordable food? Is it healthy? Consider things like places to buy coffee, dietary accommodations, and if the university is conscientious about things like food waste.
College isn't cheap even under the best circumstances, and leaving college saddled with tons of debt isn't fun - although in some cases it is worth it in the long-term. That being said it's important to consider how much it costs for just one semester of learning at the university you're considering. After that, you need to take stock of what your personal finances are: are your parents going to help? What kind of loans do you need to take out, and will you make that money back by getting a job with the degree you're studying for? Scholarships also come into play as well - a school offering you a full-ride should be further up on your list than the ones who aren't.
College isn't just a time for school and work - it's also a time to explore and learn about who you are as a person. With that in mind check out what kinds of clubs and groups the school hosts on campus. Other factors to consider are things like running for student government, volunteer opportunities, fitness classes, or religious services.
For the average college student, having a car to get around is generally out of the question. So, with that in mind, you have to ask yourself a very simple question - how are you going to get around? Some cities have fantastic public transportation that totally negates any reason to have a private vehicle. Other places (looking at you Los Angeles) have terrible public transport, making going from point A to point B very tricky. Check and see if your school offers any assistance in that regard before making a final choice.
While thinking about which college you want to go to seems like an all-consuming task, don't forget that there is life afterward. So instead of just focusing on what sorts of classes the college offers you also need to think about how they're going to help you succeed in other ways. Many, but not all, schools offer assistance in resume building and interviews - check and see if the school you want to go to offers things like that. Oftentimes, they make all the difference in the world.