Selecting Colleges and Universities

    There are many reasons for going to college. Statistics change rapidly, but most people cite the financial benefits of earning a degree. During good economic times, when major manufacturing and other U.S. firms are locating themselves in the continental U.S., and hiring predominantly American citizens, college graduates tend to do well financially. Additionally, students who are more vigorous readers tend to have a greater understanding of how societies function around the world.

    In general, the better educated fare better economically than the lesser educated. However, education is not only about attending college. The better educated, whether via formal systems (middle, high schools, and universities), independent/MOOC-learning, or simply by actively reading, skill-building and finding applications for your updated abilities. However, if more formal education is your chosen path, note that selecting colleges and universities to attend is no easy feat. College rankings are interesting to read, but you want to make the best choices for you.

    As of 2012, there were more than 3,000 accredited 4-year colleges/universities in the United States. Of course, that figure does not include 2-year and technical colleges. Universities are distinguished for colleges and bachelor’s degree awarding academies primarily by their offering advanced degree training (e.g., masters, Ph.D.). So, how do you determine where to attend school? Some factors to consider are:

  1. Majors/Program Content – What majors are offered versus your interests or possible strengths? And, how robust are the programs in terms of varieties of options and high-quality practical experience opportunities (e.g., paid internships, internships for college credit)? Regarding internships, the schools should not just state that resources are available for your investigation. Rather, they should either be an integral part of your program or if optional, you should be guaranteed placement.

  2. Size – Do you prefer a smaller, medium-sized or large school? Does such matter to you?

  3. Class Profile – This is defined by student body diversity, locations of homes of origin (e.g., predominantly local, in-state, regional, national, international), financial backgrounds (mixed, versus primarily lower, middle, upper income households), academic histories (GPA/standardized test score class means and ranges), legacy-orientation (many students there because parents were graduates or they receive preferential admission), a predominance of academic, skills, interests, and other characteristics you may wish to acknowledge.

  4. Where – Where is the school located? Is it urban, suburban, rural, beachfront, and/or significantly impacted by local geography and weather? How far is it from home (travel expenses and proximity to friends and family)? How will location affect access, clothing needs, recreation options, and simple activities of daily living?

  5. Beliefs – These are often clearly characterized by the school’s name, Mission Statement, About Us statement, or the nature of the student clubs and organizations. Are values reflected in required courses, staff and student attitudes and mannerisms, campus-wide discretionary opportunities, and the tenor of the community a good fit for you?

  6. Retention Programs – What resources does the school apply to assure that students who matriculate also fare well, ultimately graduating? A good program should be somewhat invasive regarding student privacy. Otherwise, late, untimely recognition of poor grades, as well as social, health, and personal resource challenges may adversely impact student stability. These require intense investigation.

  7. Graduation Rates – These reflect the quality of Admissions practices, instruction, Retention Programs, student skills and abilities of non-school support networks. We understand that some schools have historic missions and objectives related to serving the less well-prepared, the underclass, the underprivileged, the deprived and previously under-served. However, as colleges accept this mission (and associated funding benefits and opportunities), they need to need to effectively educate and graduate admitted students, or the students will remain under-served. These statistics and related issue require intense investigation and consideration.

  8. Job and Graduate School Placement – Most attend college personal development (on may levels) culminating with access to better employment/business opportunities, immediately or after completing additional training such as graduate school. The college should have a great placement record regarding Major-relevant jobs placements and/or acceptance into the type of graduate school program in which you may be interested.

  9. Cost – Higher education is an industry. Cost of services is high, even without a guarantee of graduation. Consider both public and private schools. Private schools often have readily available, baseline scholarships that make their tuition comparable to tuitions at state schools against which they are competing, especially when considering out-of-state public institutions. The Common Application (http://www.commonapp.org) fee for private schools can also be self-waived on the site as you apply to each college. Additionally, at private schools they are more likely to remain cost-stable throughout your tenure as their student; some even providing price-guarantee contracts. There are many more strategies available to address cost.

  10. Scholarships, Grants, etc. – As stated previously, higher education is an industry. Schools first look out for their own interests. The cost of their services (tuition, fees, housing & dining, books, other) is significant, in spite of offering you no guarantee of graduation. But, there are numerous strategies by which to address cost.

  11. Visiting Schools – If you have the opportunity to visit a couple of schools locally, one private, one public, with fairly comparable offerings, you will get a superficial impression of probable differences when comparing similar pairs all over the country. However, formal visitation programs are always too well-packaged, and well-presented to allow you to experience actual life as a student. And, you do not get much of a “peek behind the curtain” when you do a self-guided tour if their campus security is effective at not allowing you to wander too much.

    Do well in selecting the colleges and universities to which elect to apply. Contact us for assistance. ISG Success knows your education matters!