The first leap into college applications is a heady jump. You’re ready to start pursuing higher education, looking for an increasing number of opportunities to build your skills, increase your knowledge, and prepare yourself for your future job. When the time comes to actually choose a college, however, you may find yourself wondering where on earth you’re supposed to start. How will you ever know which school is right for you? There are plenty of great colleges in Portland, Oregon alone. What are the most important criteria for selecting the school that’s right for you?
1. What’s your major?
This simple question will define a great deal of the next four years of your life–and that starts now. When you select a college or university, you want to be sure that it offers the classes you need to pursue your future career. Still on the fence? If you’re stuck between a choice of a couple of potential majors, make sure that your chosen school offers options for both of them. On the other hand, if you’re entirely undecided, choose a school that offers a wide selection of classes you’re interested in. If you take a few electives to start off, you’ll be more likely to discover the direction that will work best for you going forward. You should also consider such important questions as when classes are offered and whether or not they’ll fit with your schedule.
2. What’s your budget?
Let’s face it: ultimately, your available finances will determine a great deal about where you can attend school. If you’re lucky enough to have a great scholarship or parents who will help fund your college education, you may have a wider range of choices than someone who is working to put themselves through college. Take a hard look at your budget before you get stuck on a school that you can’t attend. Don’t let your financial situation deter you from pursuing the school of your dreams, though! You never know when you’ll be offered a great scholarship that will cover everything you need for your tuition. Just make sure that you have a backup plan in case you aren’t offered the funding you need.
3. How does your faith factor in?
Many Christian students find that their faith has a huge impact on the college they ultimately choose. They want a school where their faith will be nurtured, encouraged, and grown throughout their four years there, rather than a school where they will constantly be on the defensive or feeling like an outcast as a result of their faith. How will your faith factor into your choice of college? At a Christian college or university, you’ll find that your faith is grown, rather than being ignored or destroyed as a result of your circumstances.
4. What athletic offerings are you looking for?
Have you pursued a sport throughout high school that will earn you a scholarship to the college or university of your choice? If you have pursued that sport, what do you hope to do with it once your college days are past? Check out sports programs at the universities you’re considering before making your short list of colleges you’d like to attend. The college you play for may significantly impact your ability to sign on to a professional team or create a foot in the door that will enable you to get a job as a coach at the high school level.
5. How safe is the campus?
Take a long, hard look at campus safety rates. Is it safe to walk around your campus at night without an escort, or as you going to be asking for trouble? Is campus security easy to find and a regular presence around the campus, or does “campus security” consist of a handful of a single guard who is never available when you need him and wouldn’t be able to handle the situation if something did go wrong? Check out information about curfews, how students can get into the dorms if they are out after hours, and what kind of procedures and policies are in place for dealing with repairs and maintenance across campus.
6. Where, geographically, do you want to attend college?
For some students, a college or university as close to home as possible is the ideal. They want to be able to live at home or at least be close enough to drive home for weekend visits. Others want to get as far away from their parents as possible. Where do you want to be when you’re “away” at school? Do you want to be in reach of your parents if your car breaks down or your roommate is causing unbearable problems, or are you prepared to deal with those issues on your own? Make sure you carefully consider the geographic convenience of your preferred school.
7. How do the stats look?
When you’ve narrowed down your school choices, take a look at some key statistics. You want to know what the returning student rate is: do many students get through their freshman year or sophomore year and decide that they will be better off somewhere else? How does the student/faculty ratio look: smaller ratios will lead to a better relationship with each professor, while a larger class size will allow you to blend into the background unnoticed. Look into the campus’s support services: how do they work with students when it comes to job placement, employment counseling, and other important issues? You also want to examine student population diversity to make sure there are plenty of different students across the campus.
The college or university you’ll attend is a big decision, but it’s one you’ll enjoy making and appreciate the results of for years to come. Take the time to carefully plan out what you want most in a college, then look for one that will meet your needs. Once you’re there, you’ll be in for the adventure of a lifetime.