Thursday, February 24, 2011
Factors in Choosing a College
Michael Armstrong is the Plan For College's fifth guest blogger. Michael is the Assistant Director of Career Services at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He has worked in college admission for 3 years, serving as the student tour guide trainer. He has a unique perspective of what students look for when entering college and how universities are successful in helping students achieve their goals.
For more guest blog posts and college prep discussions, connect with The College Planning Group on Facebook. Here is Michael's post:
In choosing the right college there is of course vast selection criteria, cost, scholarships, academic profile, location, majors offered, class sizes to name but a few. The important thing is for an individual to work out what is most important to them and proceed from there.
Talk to your college counselor, research online and read the promotional materials you receive. As a high school junior or senior you will be able to cover your walls, maybe even your entire house with these brochures! Always remember that these brochures/emails are promoting virtues. Their marketing strategies rarely include a “warts and all” view of things.
To that end, you simply must conduct a campus visit to any college you are considering. More than that try to make it as specific as possible. Most colleges have a pretty slick tour program in place. But generally it is a one size fits all tour, taking you through the highlights and throwing a barrage of stats at you. As much as possible you need to request to get off the beaten track, get into a class you are likely to be in, go to a student event for current students, not prospective ones, see a real dorm room not a “show” room.
Above all you must not be afraid to ask challenging questions, get to the meat of what you want to know. Most colleges will trot out impressive sounding student to teacher ratios in the region of 15-18:1 yet there are lecture halls that fit hundreds of students. Find out the ratio for your classes.
You will spend the most important years of your life in college. You must gain the knowledge you need inside and outside of the classroom. The college experience remains pivotal to most students’ development, so pick one that that feels right. Like your favorite pair of jeans, it is priceless, but you wouldn’t buy them without first trying them on for size.
Have any questions about choosing the right school? Please comment below.