How to Choose a College — What You Really Need to Consider!

Alyssa Mendez
Take the guess-work out of picking the right college. Here are five factors you need to consider.

With more than 5,000 colleges and universities across the U.S. and even more abroad, finding one that is the right fit for you can seem daunting. However, despite the seemingly infinite options, you can choose to approach this process as a joyful learning experience, especially while under the guidance of supportive and experienced counselors.

At Calvary Christian Academy, our School Counseling Team works with students beginning freshman year to identify strengths, priorities, and interests in order to find the best match during their college search. The college admissions process should not be about ending up at “the best” school, but rather, finding a school that’s best suited for you. There are various factors to consider, but we’ve identified five key ones that will empower our students and their families to make a sound, strategic decision.

  • Be Program-Minded

    If you know what you intend to study, research which accredited schools have the best programs for your major. Try not to fall into the trap of gravitating to a college simply because of the prestige associated with its name; a lesser known college may have a better program for your intended area of study. If you’re undecided on a major, set your sights on a school that has reputable programs all-around and offers an exploratory track that exposes you to classes across different departments. Some colleges even allow you to design your own major! This is also a time to consider continuing your education at a Christian institution; such colleges can serve as an edifying and challenging environment to not only grow in a variety of disciplines, but in your walk with Christ as well.

  • Size

    If you thrive in a personalized classroom environment, a college with small class sizes will allow you to easily make meaningful connections with professors, which can lead to more successful learning outcomes and valuable professional opportunities. Conversely, some students may find themselves gravitating toward larger colleges, which was the case for me upon graduating from a Pre-K–12th grade Christian school with 25 students in my class. I decided to attend a public university with more than 50,000 students because I was ready to experience a change in environment and the responsibility of living on my own. There, I surprisingly encountered a variety of class types — lecture-based ones in large auditoriums, ones that were fully online, and classes with 20 or so students, which were incredibly interactive.

  • Student Life

    Although academics should be priority, the involvement opportunities offered at a university can be equally important. If you know there are certain interests and values you’d like to continue pursuing in college such as sports, music, faith, student government, and volunteering, look for a university that has clubs and organizations that promote development in these areas and in new areas you’d like to explore. This is how you build your resume, develop socially as a young adult, and meet like-minded students who may end up being your life-long friends! Colleges typically have a plethora of clubs to choose from, and many even allow you to create one of your own. Take the time to visualize what fulfillment outside of the classroom looks like, then consider a college brings that vision to life.

  • Location, Location, Location

    Some students attend college locally to be close to family and save money, some stay in-state to gain independence while remaining relatively close to home, and some can handle venturing out of state and only visiting home for major holidays. This is certainly a discussion worth having together as a family, as ending up too far or not far enough can lead to challenges adjusting and unnecessary costs. Furthermore, a college’s surrounding environment can also enhance the college experience. Planning a college visit will really help you get a feel for the area. Consider a setting that suits your personality type, interests, and future plans — whether it’s a large city, small town, or somewhere in between. For example, an avid surfer may want to look for a college near a coast, and someone passionate about culture could explore the possibility of studying in another country.

  • Cost of Attendance

    We recognize that our families come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, which may be one of the most influential factors when it comes to choosing a college. Although private institutions are generally costlier, some offer considerable amounts of money in need-based financial aid and academic scholarships. If you’re unsure whether you can afford a private college, we recommend still applying and seeing how much aid they offer. If accepted, you can further discuss the offer with a financial aid officer to see if there is any flexibility and also apply for third-party scholarships. Some students may have Florida Prepaid, receive full-rides to universities, or even get money back in their pockets to attend a school; evaluating the overall value of the education you’d be receiving is crucial. Also, if you’re planning to attend graduate school, it would be wise to choose a college with a quality, yet affordable undergraduate program to avoid an exorbitant amount of student loans.

On top of keeping these five factors in mind, aim to be true to who you are and maintain integrity during the college admissions process. If you feel pressured to conform to someone you’re not in order to appear more desirable to a college, then it’s probably not the right fit. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and the Lord already has the perfect college handpicked for you. Allow Him to reveal His will to you through His Word, prayer, and counsel during this exciting, transitory season.

To see which colleges CCA students have most recently been accepted to, click here.
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