Choosing a College

Possibly one of the most important decisions you will make is the selection of which college or university to attend. This choice can impact your future career, friendships, associations, and possibly even your future mate. Therefore, it is imperative that you make as informed a decision as possible. Following are six things to consider when choosing your future alma mater.

  1. Available Majors
    This is undoubtedly the most important factor to consider. Ultimately, you are going to college to prepare yourself to find a job or acquire the skills necessary to become an entrepreneur. In the past, just having a bachelor’s degree, no matter the subject area, allowed access to a number of occupations. Unfortunately, times have changed. Today, most employers require very specific skill-sets relevant to a specific job function or industry. It’s never too early to start thinking about what you want to do (quite possibly) for the rest of your life.

    Sound overwhelming? It doesn’t have to be. Make a list of the things you love to do and then think about related careers. The Majors in Demand page of HBCU Search can also help you get the process started. Lastly, identify the college or university that offers the major you want. If you still aren’t sure what to major in consider institutions with a large portfolio of majors and that will allow you to enter as an undeclared major.
  2. Cost
    For the 2010–11 academic year, annual current dollar prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board were estimated to be $13,600 at public institutions, $36,300 at private not-for-profit institutions, and $23,500 at private for-profit institutions. Overwhelming, right? Don’t panic. Going to college is still a wise investment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013 the unemployment rate for someone with a high school diploma was 7.5% compared with only 4% for those with a bachelor’s degree. Here’s something else to consider, in 2012 the median income for someone with a bachelor’s degree was $67,140 compared to $35,170 for those with a high school diploma. That being said, you still want to be careful to select an institution with tuition rates you are comfortable with. Consider the occupational outlook1 evaluating potential educational debt.
  3. Campus Life
    Ok, so going to college isn’t all about business, it’s also about the “college experience”. Whether you choose to live in a dorm on campus, an apartment close to campus, or commute, that campus will become your home away from home for the next four to five years. The environment in which you’ll be attending college can make or break your experience and could even impact your academic success. In choosing the right college be sure to consider the following aspects of campus life: What activities and organizations would you like to participate in? Are you interested in pledging a sorority or fraternity? Make sure that the college you’re considering has the organization you’re interested in or a wide enough selection that you can make that choice later. Check out the Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs) page to determine which might be a good fit for you. How large or small would you prefer the campus be? If you like the idea of rolling out of bed and walking to class within five minutes, you should probably avoid large campuses. Consider the student population as well. Are you a people person, the more the merrier, or do you prefer small intimate environments where everyone knows your name?
  4. Success of Alumni
    Has the institution had alumni who have experienced some degree of success in the field that you plan to pursue? This is important as you embark on your career because it establishes a network that could open certain opportunities. The success of graduates also speaks to the merit of the academic preparation the college provides as well as the value your future degree can offer. Don’t be afraid to ask which companies or organizations alumni currently work for or, better yet, own.
  5. Location
    • Setting
      Be realistic about the campus setting that you will most enjoy. Whether you choose a school in an urban, rural, or suburban setting there are pros and cons to each. Most institutions schedule campus tours and visits on a regular basis. Check the websites of the school you’re interested in to see when you can visit. If your school of choice is on the other side of the country, look into virtual tours and call admissions to see if they can link you with a student via web chat or telephone.
    • Distance from Home
      Attending school away from home will not only incur greater costs it could have an emotional impact. Consider the distance from your hometown when making your college selection and how often you will or will not be able to return home or have family/friends visits.
  6. Reputation
    Though it should by no means be the only determinant in your decision to attend an institution, reputation can help to break any ties. Remember though, that experiences are subjective. What one individual values another may not. When evaluating reputation try to be as objective as possible. Base your impression on fact and not hearsay. Accreditation, for example, is a good indication of an institutions standing. An accredited college is an institution of higher education that has passed the evaluation standards of a regional or professional accreditation organization. Schools can be generally accredited by a regional board and a school`s individual programs can be accredited by professional organizations. The purpose of accrediting a college is to ensure that the institution or program meets certain educational requirements. Employers may also check to see that an applicant has a degree from an accredited institution. Most importantly when choosing a college is to make an informed decision. The goal is to walk away from that institution with a degree. The more informed your choice the better your chance of reaching this goal and in a way that should create memories that will last a lifetime.