Selecting Schools: Things to Consider

August 24, 2016

According to the National Center for Education Studies, there are over 2,850 four-year colleges in the United States. Yet as the application season approaches, college-bound juniors will begin whittling down these innumerable options to lists of just 5 -10 schools. How will they decide? Check out this list of important factors to consider!

  1. Location: First, location matters. There are any number of questions you should ask yourself, but here are a few: Will I go home for holidays (if yes, which ones)? What about long-weekends? How much will it cost to go home? How often will friends & family visit? These questions are important to answer – I’ll wager that nearly all freshmen experience some degree of homesickness (myself included), for which familiar faces are a major relief. But even more mundane questions, like “How is the weather?” can affect your choices (Note: It’s always a good idea to visit schools in the winter). In my experience, most applicants will narrow their choices by distance, region, state or even city for one reason or another. For example, I limited my search to schools in the Northeast & Mid-Atlantic to be closer to home. College visits are an especially important part of your decision-making process, so applying to schools that you will never visit (i.e. too far away, etc.) may not be a good idea.

  2. Size: What size school will you choose? For this criteria, it’s about “fit” and resources. Some people prefer smaller, more intimate schools (e.g. Amherst, Haverford, etc.) with only several thousand undergrads. Others prefer larger schools with top research facilities, athletic programs, etc. That being said, at larger schools you may have more lectures, which can have hundreds of students versus the popular seminar format employed by smaller schools (mostly liberal arts).

  3. Admission Rate: This one may seem obvious, but a school’s rate of acceptance is a key determinate in whether you list it as a “safety” or “reach” option. Admission to the nation’s top schools is notoriously difficult, so choosing other top schools (Top 30) as your “safeties” is probably not a good idea, no matter how qualified you are. Keep in mind that “safety” schools are supposed to be acceptable fallbacks that you can likely get into, but would be content attending. Don’t pick a place where you will be miserable!

  4. Curriculum: If you have a certain career in mind, you may want to consider specific schools that specialize in different programs. For example, Cornell has a world-renowned hospitality program, whereas Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service is a must-go for diplomats. Keep in mind graduate or 5-year programs as well – some colleges will let undergrads complete a BS / MS in 5 years instead of the normal 6 years, saving you time and money.

  5. Size of Campus: Finally, one factor many people probably don’t think about is just how big the campus is. As a student, I can confirm that a great deal of your time is spent simply trekking to and from class, dining halls, dorm rooms, the gym, club meetings, the library, etc. Make sure you think about how the weather (i.e. snow) will affect your ‘commute’. Also, some colleges actually have satellite campuses (e.g. Duke or Boston College) that may be quite some distance from the main campus. Incoming freshmen are usually housed on such campuses, so make sure to pay close attention to tour guides – lest you find out upon enrolling that you have a 15 minute shuttle to classes each day.

Applying to college?
View the app files and essays of accepted students.
LEARN MORE

Choosing where to go to college is an incredibly important decision. Make an informed choice by talking to current students on our mentorship platform. Access 60,000+ successful college application files uploaded by college students (they get paid when you view them). AdmitSee is a community of students helping students. Our goal is to bring much-needed transparency to higher education. 

About The Author

AdmitSee Staff
AdmitSee Staff

​We remember our frustration with applying to college and the lack of information surrounding it. So we created AdmitSee to bring much-needed transparency to the application process! Read more about the team here.




Browse Successful Application Files

nyudotedu
NYU ‘19


Accepted to NYU, BC, BU, GWU, Northeastern

I was born and raised in Korea, but I've studied in in U.S. boarding school for 7 years. I love people, building, and cars so I love every cities in the world.
yuzhushi
UMD ‘20


Accepted to UMD, JHU, Duke, Case, Swarthmore, Penn State

I am a recent high school grad about to enter my first year of college at the University of Maryland: College Park with a full Banneker/Key scholarship.
b_rod
Harvard ‘20


Accepted to Harvard, Yale, MIT, Columbia, UVA

Lover of physics, math, and chess. Football player and bass player. California born and raised.
alm25
UT Austin ‘19


Accepted to UC Berkeley, USC, UMich, Illinois, UT Austin, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCSD, UCSB, U of Minnesota, Arizona, WVU, Cal Poly, San Jose State

I'm from the SF Bay Area, but I'm betraying my roots by attending The University of Texas at Austin as a chemical engineering major. I like music, science and eating!

New Posts

SAT & ACT Not Required? A Look at Test-Optional Colleges
SAT & ACT Not Required? A Look at Test-Optional Colleges
July 03, 2018

College has long been linked to standardized testing, especially since they are intended to assess a student’s readiness for college.What is a Test-Optional College?When a college or university is test-optional, it means...

Undecided Major? 3 Reasons Why You Should Own It
Undecided Major? 3 Reasons Why You Should Own It
June 20, 2018

“What do you plan on majoring in?” How much do you dread that question coming up at the dinner table? Thanks to Aunt Sally, this conversation is back on the table. You don’t want...

Student Insight: Transition to College
Student Insight: Transition to College
June 18, 2018

All college-bound students have some jitters about going to college for the first time. Let’s try to help you settle in more easily with these tips from current college students. There are a lot...

Load More Posts