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Finding the College that is Right for You

signAs you develop a list of colleges that interest you, be sure you can answer these questions about them. Look at many colleges, as several will be an excellent fit, and avoid getting your heart set on just one college.


BIG Future

Lots of information about colleges and careers available on this website that features matching your preferences to careers and colleges throughout the U.S. bigfuture.org

California Colleges   
This website has wonderful, useful information for students heading for college! Use their match assistant tool that allows students to select personal preferences that will be matched to colleges in California. Preferences include location, size of college, college major, sports and more. Check it out at: California Colleges

The Basics

  • Where is the college?  Can you locate it on a map?  Is it too close to home? Is it too far? Is it too cold or too hot there?
  • Have you taken the course work the college requires for admission?
  • What size is the college?  How many students are undergraduates?
  • What is the college's selectivity ratio (what proportion of applicants were admitted last year)?
  • Does the college offer majors that interest you?
  • Is the college coed or single gender?
  • What percentage of students live off campus?
  • How many of the students graduate in four years?  Five years?  Six years?
  • How many first-year students return for their sophomore year?
  • How much does the program cost?  What is the total per-year expense?
  • What type of financial aid is available?

Where would you fit in?

  • What are the middle 50 percent scores for SAT reading and math or for ACT?  Where does that place you?
  • What were the high school GPA'S of most of  the freshmen last year?
  • Are freshmen guaranteed on-campus housing? If not, where do they live?
  • Are there extra curricular activities that interest you?

Visit the college websites, read the guidebooks, and look at their literature - What are their strong academic programs?  (Ask a college representative, students, graduates, and teachers.)

  • What courses are required for graduation?
  • Are the courses you need/want available each semester?  At convenient times?
  • Are there special programs that interest you (study abroad, internships, etc.)?
  • What is the social life like?  What percentage of students join fraternities or sororities?
  • Do the pictures and the language the college uses to describe itself attract you?
  • What is your general impression of the college?
  • Is the school accredited?
  • If professional certification is required for employment in the field that interests you, how many students enrolled in the school's program pass the certification?

College Scorecard See what the federal government has to say about colleges by viewing the web page (at left) entitled "College Scorecard" to review other factors, such as cost and graduation rate, in college selection process. Can you answer these questions:

  • Am I a strong candidate for admission to this college?
  • If I am not a strong candidate, what are my chances?
  • Do I want to visit this college?
  • What additional information do I need?

It is recommended that students apply to no more than six colleges:  two safe, two target and two reach.

SAFE.... A college where you would have been easily accepted the previous year

  • You meet all the requirements for the recommended coursework.
  • Your SAT/ACT score is significantly above the average that was accepted last year.
  • Your un-weighted GPA is significantly above the average accepted last year.
  • You have taken the average number of honors/AP courses.
  • The major you want is available and you have checked the graduation requirements.
  • You meet every requirement for admission.

TARGET.... a college where you should have been accepted the previous year

  • You meet all the requirements for the recommended coursework.
  • Your SAT\ACT score is at or above  the average accepted last year.
  • Your un-weighted GPA is at or above  the average accepted last year.
  • You have taken the average number of honors/AP courses.
  • The major you want is available and you have checked the graduation requirements.
  • You meet every requirement for admission.

REACH.... A college you really want to attend, you have all the qualifications and might have been accepted the previous year

  • You meet all the requirements for the recommended coursework.
  • Your SAT/ACT score is at or about the average that was accepted last year.
  • Your un-weighted score GPA is at or about  the average accepted last year.
  • You have taken the average number of honors/AP courses.
  • The major you want is available and you have checked the graduation requirements.
  • You meet every requirement for admission.

Before making a final decision, be sure to VISIT THE CAMPUS

Visiting the college campus that you will attend is a critical step to your future happiness.  Getting a feel for the surroundings will increase your comfort level and will guide you in confirming your decision.

WARNING: For-Profit Colleges

Be wary of colleges that advertise heavily on TV, Radio, Internet or by mail, or who contact you in other ways. These are FOR PROFIT schools that may make many unsubstantiated claims:
 
"We will guarantee you a job making great money after you complete our program."
"Don't worry about paying for the program now-you qualify for a loan!"

These schools can be very expensive and students may by saddled with HEAVY DEBT that can be difficult to repay if the career in the field of study doesn't materialize (and even if it does). Be CAUTIOUS about such programs and investigate them thoroughly to determine if they will serve your career needs. It's likely that community colleges and ROP programs can offer you a good education without the tremendous expense.