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Variables To Consider When Deciding Where To Apply For College

Students’ college decisions are among the most significant choices they will make over the course of their lifetimes. Many students lay the foundations for rewarding careers during college, and the friendships formed during university years often last a lifetime.

Students cannot utilize a magic formula to ensure they choose the right college or university. However, on-campus visits and discussions with current and former students can provide invaluable insight into what life is like at a given college or university. In addition, students and their families can consider a host of variables as they try to decide where to apply for college.

Cost: The high cost of college is well documented, but prices vary significantly. According to the Trends in College Pricing 2023 report from the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees at a public, four-year, in-state school was $11,260 in the 2022-23 school year. The average cost of tuition and fees and a private, nonprofit, four-year school during that same academic year was $41,540. That’s a price difference of more than $30,000 annually. Many students borrow money to finance their college educations, and high schoolers must consider the amount of debt they’re willing to take on when making this pivotal life decision.

Campus life: The atmosphere on and around campus is another variable to consider when deciding where to apply to college. College is the first taste of independence many young people experience. Though students are often excited by that prospect, it’s important to recognize that the atmosphere on campus will go a long way toward determining how enjoyable life at a given college or university may be. For example, students who are looking forward to living on campus may not find that transition as enjoyable if a school has more commuter students than resident students. In addition, some students may prefer an insulated college environment, while others may be looking for opportunities to engage in city life that goes beyond campus activities. Students can identify what they want out of campus life and then choose schools based on how closely their environments align with those priorities.

Curriculum: Curriculum merits ample consideration, even among students who are uncertain about what they want to study. For those who know what they want to study, arrange to speak with department faculty and current students when visiting the campus to identify if a given program aligns with your academic interests. Curriculums are designed differently at each university, so programs under the same major can be vastly different from one school to the next. Students who are not sure what they want to study can look for colleges and universities that offer a wide range of majors, minors and concentrations.

Reputation: A school’s reputation is another factor that merits consideration. Reputation is a somewhat fluid variable, and it’s not always the best barometer to use when assessing a college or university. However, if a school has an especially strong reputation among businesses and professionals in the field a student hopes to enter, then this can be a crucial variable when deciding where to apply.

These are just a handful of the variables students and their families can consider as they try to decide where young men and women will end up during the next phase of their academic journeys.

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