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5 Tips for Choosing the Right College or University

Going to the right college or university can make or break your future! These five tips on how to choose the best college will help you sort through all the possible schools and programs.

These tips will help you figure out the best college for you — which may be different than the best school for your friend, relative, or fellow students.

Before the tips, a quip:

“To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.” ~ Kofi Annan.

To choose the right college,  you need to know yourself  and what your career goals are. Picking the best school for you will help you get the education you need to succeed. For more information on choosing a college, read The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges: Students on Campus Tell You What You Really Want to Know — it’s edited by Yale University staff.

And, here are five tips for finding the best college…

How Do You Choose a College? 5 Ways to Find the Best School

The school you pick will not only grant your degree, but will be a place where you spend a lot of time. Each institution has its own specialties and focus. Without the right questions to ask, picking a university or college will be difficult.

These tips offer questions that are important considerations when choosing a school – whether you’re considering a small private college or graduate level studies at a public university (if you’re trying to get into grad school, here are a few tips for Master’s and PhD programs).

1. Review admission requirements and program availability – Which institutions offer the program that you want? Do you have the pre-requisite courses for admission? Will your grades allow you to get into the program? Some universities or colleges provide cut-off ranges on their websites, so check these out. Are there any other application requirements such as a portfolios or statements of career plans?

2. Check course content – Do the college or university courses offer the content that you want? Will you need to specialize in your first two years, or can you take a variety of courses? Will the course content allow you to pursue the career that you are interested in? If you intend to go on to graduate school, are graduate school pre-requisites covered? Is this a new program for the university or is it established? What types of jobs do graduates get? Do they go on for further learning? Are there a co-op options? When you’re choosing a college, you need to look at the course content.

3. Consider the university location and class sizes – Do you prefer a small university or college with small class sizes? Does the program have labs where students can get more individualized attention? Would you prefer to remain at home or go away to school? Can you afford to live away from home? How would you travel to and from school? How often could you afford to come home to visit? Can you request a tour of the school and its residences? One of the best ways to find the school for you is to go in person, and check it out.

4. Figure out costs and find scholarships – What is the cost of your preferred program of study? Are there scholarships available? Or work-study programs? What sort of part-time jobs are available to students who need to earn money? Would you have to purchase a food plan or could you buy your own groceries?

If you’re concerned about money, read 6 Ways to Avoid Student Loan Debt for College Students.

5. Ask about school life/athletics on campus –Find out the types of clubs and facilities that the college or university has. If you are interested in sports, you might choose a college based on the availability of competitive teams or lessons for beginners. If you’d like to volunteer your time, find out if there any opportunities to volunteer on campus. If you are interested in journalism, find out if there is a school paper?

How will you pay for your education? If you’re applying for a scholarship, here’s a Sample of a Scholarship Essay.

And if you have thoughts or questions about choosing a college or finding the best school, please comment below.

Written by Merle Rosenstein, a Toronto-based food and travel writer, blogger and staff writer for Canadian Traveller Magazine. Visit her at online at

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