How to Choose the Right College: Factors to Consider

Sometimes you find yourself in a dilemma—stuck between colleges, each promising a world of possibilities. Here are some aspects you need to consider when answer the golden question: Which one is a better fit for me?

Your Financial Situation

A crucial aspect to consider when choosing between colleges is your financial situation. It’s tough to let go of a college because you can’t afford the tuition, but being realistic about your financial constraints is essential for a stress-free academic journey. Here are few aspects to consider:

  • Financial Aid Reputation: Does the college have a track record of providing sufficient financial aid to students in need?
  • Yearly Financial Aid Changes: Is the college known to decrease financial aid after the first year of enrollment?
  • Flexibility during Changing Circumstances: Determine if the financial aid office is accommodating and supportive when students’ financial circumstances change.
  • College Endowment: Investigate the size of the college’s endowment, as it can reflect the institution’s capacity to offer substantial financial aid.
  • No-Loan Policy: Discover if the college follows a rare “No Loan” policy, reducing the burden of student loans for eligible students.
  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC) Information: Find the EFC information on the university’s website to understand the estimated financial contribution expected from your family.
  • Actual Financial Aid Offer: Understand the breakdown of the actual financial aid you received, including scholarships, grants, and loans, if applicable.

Career Planning

If you have a clear vision of your potential career path, it’s vital to carefully assess how each college aligns with your aspirations and helps you achieve your career goals. Let’s dive in and discover what aspects you should consider when evaluating your choices:

  • Internship Support: Assess how the university supports students in their pursuit of internships.
  • Internship Opportunities: Evaluate the likelihood of obtaining internships and the strength of campus internship recruiting efforts.
  • Merit-based vs. Social Connections: Determine whether internships are awarded based on merit or through affiliations like fraternity/sport connections, promoting a fair and inclusive environment.
  • Impact of Clubs: Explore whether joining specific clubs is necessary to secure internships and how competitive club rushes are for career-oriented organizations.
  • Career-Related Clubs: Consider the quality and variety of career-related clubs available to students, as they can be valuable networking and skill-building platforms.
  • Location Advantage: Analyze how the college’s location (e.g., NYC for Wall Street careers) provides unique opportunities for internships and industry exposure.
  • Alumni Network: Examine the extent of alumni presence in your field, as a robust alumni network can open doors to internships and job opportunities.
  • College Prestige: Consider the college’s prestige and influence in your chosen field, as it can enhance your career prospects and open doors to top-tier opportunities.

By considering these career-oriented aspects of each college, you can make informed decisions that lead you closer to your desired career and pave the way for a successful professional journey.

Planning for Grad School

Embarking on the journey to graduate school requires thoughtful planning and consideration. As you contemplate furthering your education beyond the undergraduate level, there are crucial aspects to explore before making this significant commitment:

  • Relevance of Major: Consider if the college is renowned for offering your intended major or field of study.
  • Upper-Level and Seminar Classes: Explore the availability of advanced courses and seminars during the last two years of your undergraduate program.
  • Distinguished Professors: Look into whether the major has one or more renowned professors whose expertise can enhance your academic experience.
  • Networking Opportunities: Investigate if professors have strong connections with professionals at other leading universities in your field.
  • Undergraduate Research Opportunities: Determine whether the college offers undergraduate research opportunities, fostering hands-on experience. Some colleges provide summer research programs, allowing you to gain valuable research experience during breaks
  • Managing Student Loans: Consider if the undergraduate school offers financial aid options to keep your student loans manageable, allowing you to save money for graduate school.

By considering these essential aspects, you can make well-informed decisions that set you on a successful path toward graduate school and a rewarding academic journey.

Planning for Premed

Aspiring doctors need to carefully navigate through various considerations to ensure they are well-prepared for medical school and beyond. From choosing the right undergraduate program and extracurricular activities to preparing for the MCAT and gaining valuable clinical experience, each step is essential in shaping a competitive application and becoming a well-rounded medical professional. Here are few aspects you should consider:

  • Grading Policies: Understand the university’s stance on grade inflation/deflation to gauge academic competitiveness.
  • Access to Volunteer Opportunities: Explore if nearby hospitals offer ample volunteer hours to enhance your medical experience.
  • Premed and Science Clubs: Assess the availability and quality of premed and science-related clubs to foster a supportive academic community.
  • Quality of Science Teaching: Investigate the strength of science teaching to ensure a robust foundation for medical studies.
  • MCAT Score Averages: Look into the average MCAT scores of students, reflecting the institution’s preparation for medical school admissions.
  • Flexibility in Premed Major: Check if it’s feasible to pursue a non-traditional premed major and take relevant premed courses outside of that major.
  • Financial Planning: Consider if the college allows you to keep undergraduate loans low, preparing you for upcoming medical school expenses.
  • Diverse “Exit Options”: Investigate the range of opportunities available to premeds who may choose alternative paths beyond the premed track.

By considering these essential premed planning aspects, you can make well-informed decisions and maximize your potential for a successful medical career. ?

If You Don’t Know Your Major

If you find yourself undecided about your academic direction, fear not; this is a common and entirely normal experience. In this section, we’ll explore essential planning aspects for students who haven’t yet chosen their majors:

  • Versatility: Does the college excel in diverse academic areas, providing a wide array of options for undecided students?
  • Flexibility in Changing Majors or Schools: Is it easy to switch between majors or schools within the university to find the best fit for your interests?
  • Multiple Major Changes: Can you change your major more than once if needed, allowing for further exploration and personal growth?
  • Declaration Deadlines: Consider the deadlines for declaring your major, ensuring enough time for thoughtful consideration or possibly allowing a later declaration for a more informed choice.

By considering these important aspects, you can make well-informed decisions about your major, shaping a fulfilling and successful academic experience at your college.

If You Know Your Major

In this section, we’ll explore the essential planning aspects for students who have found their majors:

  • Availability of Prerequisite Classes: Are prerequisite classes challenging to enroll in, and do they align well with your academic timeline?
  • Declaration Process: Can you easily declare your major, or is there a specific application process?
  • GPA Requirements for Major Admission: What GPA is needed in prerequisite courses to be accepted into the major?
  • Major Course Progression: Does the course progression for the major complement your academic interests and align with your long-term goals?
  • Completion Timeframe: Is it common to complete the major within the traditional four-year undergraduate program?
  • Recent Major Restructuring: Has the major recently undergone any significant changes or updates?
  • Recent Scandals or Leadership Changes: Are there any notable recent events or changes that may impact the major’s quality?
  • Specializations Offered: Does the major offer specialized tracks or concentrations to align with your specific interests?
  • Strong Major-Related Clubs: Are there active and impactful clubs or organizations related to your chosen major?

Considering these aspects will empower you to make informed decisions and optimize your experience within your chosen major, ensuring a rewarding and successful academic journey.

General Academic Aspects

Let’s explore how to navigate the vast sea of academia and how to optimize your academic journey:

  • Flexibility in Changing Majors: Evaluate how easy it is to change majors and explore diverse academic paths.
  • Transferring Between Colleges: Understand the process and challenges of transferring between colleges or academic programs (e.g., from Arts to Business).
  • General Education Requirements: Determine the extent of general education courses required for a well-rounded academic foundation.
  • Adding a Minor: Explore the ease of adding a minor to enrich your academic pursuits and diversify your skillset.
  • Certificates and Other Academic Achievements: Discover opportunities to earn certificates and accolades beyond traditional coursework.
  • Grading Options for Courses: Learn whether courses can be taken pass/fail (P/NP) and how it impacts your academic journey.
  • Writing-Intensive Courses: Consider the number of writing-intensive courses required and how they suit your strengths and interests.
  • Handling D and F Grades: Understand the policies for retaking courses and consequences of earning D or F grades.
  • Academic Probation: Be aware of the factors that may lead to academic probation and how to overcome it successfully. Some colleges are really strict with their rules.
  • Classmates’ Attitudes: Research the reputation of your classmates’ attitudes, whether they are collaborative or competitive.
  • Evaluating Professors: Check online platforms like RateMyProfessors for ratings and feedback on 10-20 professors in your major to make informed choices.

By taking these key aspects into account, you can optimize your academic journey, making the most of your college experience and preparing for a bright future ahead.

Honors Programs

For ambitious students seeking an enriched academic journey, Honors Programs present a gateway to extraordinary opportunities. These exclusive programs offer a plethora of benefits, including challenging coursework, personalized mentorship, and vibrant intellectual communities. However, embarking on the path to an Honors Program requires thoughtful planning and consideration. In this section, we’ll explore the key planning aspects that students should consider when aiming for Honors Programs:

  • Priority Class Registration: Will you receive priority access to course registration, ensuring seamless enrollment in preferred classes?
  • Honors Sections for Freshman GEs: Are there specialized Honors sections for common freshman General Education courses, and does it matter to you?
  • Honors Seminars: Are Honors seminars required throughout all four years, and what unique opportunities do they offer?
  • Honors Senior Project: Does the program require an Honors Senior project, and how does it enhance your academic journey?
  • Honors Housing: Is Honors housing mandatory, and does it offer improved amenities, such as suites, compared to regular dorms, throughout your entire undergraduate experience?
  • Overall Program Impression: Evaluate if the program aligns with your expectations and provides an enriching experience based on the points mentioned above.
  • Flexibility to Opt Out: Determine if you can opt out of certain program components while still retaining your valuable Honors scholarship.

By evaluating these aspects, you’ll make well-informed decisions about joining an Honors Program and fully embrace the extraordinary opportunities it offers for academic growth and personal development.


When it comes to choosing the right college, location plays a pivotal role in shaping your overall experience. Each city and campus offers a unique blend of culture, climate, and opportunities that can greatly impact your academic and personal growth. Planning for the perfect fit involves thoughtful consideration of various aspects, from weather and cost of living to proximity to internships and potential career prospects. In this section, we’ll explore the key planning aspects that students should consider when evaluating college locations:

  • Cost of Living: Evaluate the overall cost of living in the area to ensure financial feasibility and comfort.
  • Outdoor Activities: Explore the outdoor opportunities available, especially if you have a fondness for outdoor adventures.
  • Weather Preference: Assess whether the climate aligns with your weather preferences for a more enjoyable living experience.
  • Dining Culture: Discover the dining scene, particularly if you are a food enthusiast eager to savor diverse culinary experiences.
  • Friendly Community: Observe the local community’s friendliness and warmth, as it can enhance your overall college experience.
  • Job Opportunities: Investigate the job situation in your field to ensure promising career prospects and potential growth opportunities.

Assessing these aspects will help you ensure a harmonious blend of academics, lifestyle, and personal preferences throughout your academic journey.

Clubs & Recreation

Beyond academics, your college experience is enriched by the diverse array of clubs and recreational activities available. In this section, we’ll delve into the key considerations when choosing clubs and recreation options, ensuring that each experience aligns perfectly with your passions and enhances your overall college adventure:

  • Club Diversity: Does the college offer active clubs that align with your interests and passions?
  • Identifying Active Clubs: Check for updated lists of active clubs and double-check outdated or defunct ones.
  • Ease of Joining Clubs: Evaluate if joining clubs is a straightforward process or if it can be competitive.
  • Continuing High School Favorites: Explore whether the college has clubs similar to those you loved in high school (e.g., Model United Nations, etc.).
  • Art Studio Accessibility: Determine if art studios are accessible to all students or restricted to specific classes.
  • Intramural Sports: Look for intramural sports that align with your interests and determine how easy it is to join.
  • Club Sports: For those interested in club sports, check if they are student-run, how active they are, and the frequency of meets/matches per season, along with available facilities and funding.
  • Nearby Community Resources: If your preferred activity isn’t available on campus, explore whether it is easily accessible in the nearby community.

Social Scene

Your college social scene plays a vital role in shaping your overall experience and can greatly impact your personal growth and happiness during these transformative years. By understanding your preferences, you can determine which college curates what you look for:

  • Greek Scene Insights: Understand the Greek scene and its impact on campus life to determine if it aligns with your interests.
  • Balancing Social Life: Explore whether you can enjoy socializing as a non-Greek (GDI) student while still experiencing a vibrant college social life.
  • Competing Social Clubs: Discover if there are other social clubs that offer competitive and engaging social opportunities.
  • Undergraduate Population: Consider the percentage of undergraduate students in relation to the total student body.
  • University Size: Determine if you prefer a big or small university environment for a more comfortable social fit.
  • Vibrant Surrounding Town: Explore whether the nearby town offers a lively atmosphere for social activities and entertainment.
  • Bar and Music Scene: Find out about the quality and variety of bars and music venues in the area.
  • Alcohol and Drug Policies: Understand the university’s stance on alcohol and drug policies and how they align with your preferences.
  • Proximity to Big Cities: Determine how far the nearest big city is and if it influences students’ social activities.
  • Transportation Needs: Assess whether you’ll need a car to navigate and enjoy social events.
  • Sports and School Spirit: Evaluate the significance of sports and school spirit in the social scene and if it matters to you.
  • Campus Reputation: Understand the campus’s reputation, including any perceptions of being “socially dead” or a commuter campus.
  • Commuter Percentage: Learn the percentage of undergraduate students who commute to campus.

By considering these essential aspects, you can craft a social experience that resonates with your preferences and creates cherished memories throughout your college journey.

Transfer Students

Planning for a successful transfer involves thoughtful consideration of various aspects, from researching potential colleges and credit transfer policies to understanding the application process and ensuring a smooth transition. In this section, we’ll explore the key planning aspects for students considering a college transfer:

  • Social Integration for Transfers: Assess the social reputation for transfer students and whether they feel included in campus life.
  • Quality of Transfer Welcome Programs: Explore the transfer “welcome” programs’ effectiveness and whether ongoing support is provided.
  • Transfer Student Percentage: Determine the percentage of undergraduate students who are transfers to gauge the transfer-friendly environment.
  • Dorm Options for Upperclassmen: Find out if the university offers dorms or housing options specifically for juniors and seniors.
  • Internship Opportunities for Transfers: Evaluate the availability of career-related internships for transfer students, even if they missed the earlier years on campus.
  • Joining Clubs as a Junior: Discover how easy it is for juniors to join clubs and engage in extracurricular activities.

By considering these aspects, transfer students can seamlessly integrate into their new college environment, ensuring a fulfilling and successful academic journey.

Cultural Happiness & Identity

Planning for a college experience that aligns with your cultural values involves thoughtful consideration of various aspects, from evaluating diversity and inclusion initiatives to assessing cultural clubs and resources. In this section, we’ll explore the key planning aspects for students seeking cultural happiness and identity in college:

  • Percentage of Students Sharing Your Race/Culture: Explore the percentage of undergraduate students who share your race or culture and its impact on your sense of belonging.
  • Affinity Groups for Underrepresented Minorities (URM): For URM students, assess the level of engagement and support offered by affinity groups.
  • University Reputation Regarding Racism and Inclusivity: Investigate the university’s reputation regarding racism and whether it fosters a welcoming environment.
  • Racial Diversity Breakdown: Understand the racial breakdown of the undergraduate population to assess diversity on campus.
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Programs: Evaluate the legitimacy and effectiveness of DEI programs on campus.
  • Comfort in Extreme Minority: If you are an extreme minority in terms of race, religion, or native language, evaluate if you will feel comfortable and succeed academically.
  • LGBTQ+ Friendly Environment: Consider whether the university is LGBTQ+ friendly and how it may impact your college experience.
  • Political Environment: Determine if the political climate aligns with your beliefs and if it affects your comfort on campus.
  • Religiously Based School: If it is a religious-based school, explore the percentage of students not adhering to that religion and the level of religious diversity.
  • Military/Veteran Friendliness: Check if the university is military/veteran-friendly and offers ROTC programs.

By considering these essential aspects, you can curate a college experience that celebrates your cultural identity and provides a supportive environment for your academic and personal growth.

Mental Health

Mental Health Undergrad Atlas

College life presents exciting opportunities, but it can also be challenging, and prioritizing your mental well-being is essential for academic and personal success. Planning for a college that fosters a positive mental health environment involves thoughtful consideration of various aspects, from counseling services and mental health programs to campus culture and support systems. In this section, we’ll explore the key planning aspects for students seeking a college that prioritizes mental health:

  • University Reputation: Investigate the university’s reputation for academic rigor, workload, and grade deflation.
  • Student Well-being: Explore the overall student happiness and stress levels on campus.
  • Mental Health Concerns: Learn about the university’s approach to addressing mental health issues and suicide prevention.
  • Personal Mental Health History: If you have a history of mental illness, consider the university’s policies on taking a semester off and the ease of returning.
  • Support for Survivors: Evaluate the university’s support and resources for survivors of sexual assault.
  • Access to Gym: Determine if the gym is free and available to all students, and explore its facilities and accessibility.
  • Mental Health Services: While most universities boast great mental health services, consider other factors to assess their commitment to student well-being.

By considering these essential aspects, you can create a college experience that fosters mental wellness and empowers you to thrive academically and emotionally.

Housing & Security

Your college room/apartment should be a place of safety and tranquility, allowing you to focus on your studies and personal growth. Planning for the perfect fit involves thoughtful consideration of various aspects, from exploring on-campus and off-campus housing options to evaluating campus security measures. In this section, we’ll delve into the key planning aspects for students seeking the ideal college housing and security.

  • Mandatory On-Campus Dorms: Determine if on-campus dorms are required for all four years or if there are options for off-campus living.
  • House System: Explore if the college has a “House system” similar to the one in Harry Potter, and if it continues throughout all four years.
  • Honors Dorms: Find out if there are dedicated dorms for honors students or any specialized housing options.
  • Forced Triples: Evaluate if the dorms have forced triple room arrangements, which may impact your living comfort.
  • Planned New Dorms: Check if the college plans to build new dorms before your arrival to accommodate housing needs.
  • Housing Selection Process: Assess the housing selection system and how stressful it may be to secure preferred housing options.
  • Off-Campus Apartments: Explore the availability and affordability of off-campus apartments for alternative housing.
  • Night Safety: Consider the safety of walking around campus at night, with a focus on well-lit and secure areas.
  • Campus Security and Police Department: Learn about the effectiveness and responsiveness of the campus security and police.
  • Recent Safety Incidents: Find out if there have been any recent safety scandals or incidents on campus.

By considering these essential aspects, you can make informed decisions about your college housing and security, creating a comfortable and secure environment that enhances your overall college experience. Let’s ensure your college house is a place of comfort, safety, and growth!

Also read: 5 Essential Steps to Take After Receiving Your College Acceptance Letter


That’s a wrap for this article! I hope you found it useful. Please share it with someone you care about to help them decide which college will be a better fit for them!

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