It’s easy to be dazzled by well-known universities and elite programs, but in the end, you’re looking for a college that’s the best match for you and your aspirations. Many lesser-known colleges may have excellent programs for your course of study, and some more prestigious schools may not meet other criteria you decide are important. You’ll want to consider lots of different factors when comparing schools—not all of them academic.

First, make sure the college fits your academic needs:

  • Does the college have a good program in your chosen major?
  • Is the major offered on a schedule that fits your needs?
  • Do a lot of graduates get jobs you would like, in your chosen field?
  • Does the college offer internship and apprentice programs?

Then, consider whether the college matches some of your personal preferences:

  • Does it have large classes or small ones?
  • Is it in a big city, small town, or something in between?
  • Does it offer cultural, social, or religious support networks that may be important to you?

Finally, think about affordability:

  • What financial aid programs does the college offer?
  • Will the cost of living in that city be affordable?
  • Are there many job opportunities on campus or near campus?
  • Would a comparable, less expensive college give you more time to study because you don’t have to work?

Once you’ve narrowed your choices, start looking at the admissions requirements and selectivity of schools you like. Choose a one or two “safe” colleges that are likely to accept you, a couple for which you are definitely qualified, and maybe a couple of “reach” colleges that are quite competitive.

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