How to Choose the Best Private College.
Researching colleges can be fun if you approach your search with an open mind. It’s easy – and normal – to put colleges that you are most familiar with at the top of your list. You know – the colleges your mom and/or dad went to, or the university your best friend has their heart set on. You may even think you have to apply to a school because it is located in your hometown.
These factors should not play a headline role in deciding which colleges you choose to research. What should remain top of mind is finding a school that is the right fit for you (or your child), especially when you want to attend the best private college.
You will be spending an average of four years of intense study at the college you choose so you must find a school that fits you on several levels and at which you feel most comfortable. Also, there are thousands of colleges in the U.S. alone, so limiting yourself to a narrow range of choices means that you may overlook a school that fits you perfectly.
Determining a School’s Range for Admissions
Choosing the right type of student for your child is one thing, and then finding the right school is another. With so many colleges and universities to choose from, it can be hard to even figure out which schools are the best fit for your child. To help you narrow down your options and find the best schools for your child, it’s important to know a little bit about the admissions process.
There are a few different types of colleges that you’ll find in the United States. While most colleges fall into one of these two categories, a few colleges are hybrids that offer programs from two or more categories:
- The first type of college is an “open-admission school.” This type of school admits students based on their high school grades and test scores. Typically, students attend open-admission schools if they don’t meet the academic requirements needed to get into a more selective college.
- The second type of college is “selective.” These schools are generally smaller in size and accept only a small percentage of applicants. These colleges tend to be more selective in their admissions criteria such as SAT/ACT scores, high school GPAs, and extra-curricular activities.
What factors should you consider when choosing the best private college?
Is the school within your child’s range financially? Despite a school’s academic requirements, your child will have to pay for his or her education. If college is too expensive, your child may feel like he or she can’t afford college.
Is the college a good fit for your child’s personality? While academics are important, your child will be spending a lot of time with his or her classmates. Make sure the college you’re considering is a good fit for your child’s personality.
Would your child enjoy the college environment? Many students choose to attend colleges they wouldn’t otherwise choose because they think they don’t have any other options. Make sure your child is happy where he or she is going to college.
No two colleges are exactly alike, a holistic (and open-minded) approach to finding the best private college considers the following factors:
A school’s academic achievement level – and requirements for admission – are important factors to know as you will be required to consistently perform to that level to earn a degree in your field of choice. Here are key areas of focus for your academics research:
- What are the school’s general education or core requirements?
- How many students return for their sophomore year? How many graduated in four years?
- How are courses structured? Do they emphasize hands-on experiences, lectures, teamwork, or a combination?
- What is the average class size and student-to-faculty ratio?
- How many students find a job within six months of graduation?
- How many students go on to attend law, medical, or graduate school?
Degree Programs/Major Offerings
You may or may not be ready to declare a major, but you should investigate the available academic programs at the colleges you are considering. Here are key areas of focus for your degree programs/majors research:
- Does the school offer the degree program(s) you are interested in pursuing?
- If you are uncertain about your major, does the school have choices that pique your interest?
- What are the required courses for your intended major?
- Can you design your own major?
- What career services are available to students?
- What research or internship opportunities are available?
Your primary role in college is to study hard and earn a degree – or two. You will be enjoying some downtime now and then so it makes sense to have access to activities and social hangouts. Here are key areas of focus for your social research:
- What student clubs, activities, and organizations are available through the school? Through the community?
- Is the college social scene active, low-key, or somewhere in between?
- Where do students eat on and off campus? Where do they go to hang out on the weekends?
- Is there an active Greek system on campus? How many fraternities and sororities are there and what percentage of students are involved?
The college campus culture and characteristics of the surrounding community should play a part in your decision-making process. If you are a city kid that prefers a great deal of independence, you will probably find what you are looking for at a school located in a larger metropolitan area with a wide range of housing choices. If you prefer a cozier hometown feel, a school located in a rural environment with a lower student-to-professor ratio might be more to your liking. Here are key areas of focus for your college community research:
- Do you prefer a smaller or larger school?
- Would you prefer to live close to your hometown or far away?
- How many students live on campus versus off campus? Are students required to live on campus for a specific number of years?
- What other nationalities and cultures are represented on campus?
- What is the male-to-female ratio on campus?
Whether you take out a loan, relying on family finances, pursue scholarships and grants, or a combination, it is important to consider schools that are compatible with your proposed college budget.
- Use the net price calculators provided on each college’s website to calculate how much you can expect to pay if you attend the school for four years.
- Check out what types of financial aid packages are offered through each school.
When choosing the best private college remember that is a holistic process, considering a number of factors, including cost, academic rigor, campus life, social setting, and location. Start your quest by attending information sessions there is nothing quite like face-to-face interaction – whether virtual or in person.