How to Decide Which College to Attend

How to Pick a College

Thinking about college? Consider these factors when making your decision.

One of the bigger decisions you will make, if you decide to attend college, is which school to go to.

Which college you attend can impact your future earnings, as well as play a role in how much student loan debt you end up with upon graduation.

It also contributes to the kind of experiences you have, including resume building experiences. As you consider which college might be best for you, here are some things to keep in mind:


One of the most important considerations is affordability. You want to be able to handle the cost of going to college. A fancy degree from a top tier school might seem attractive, but is it really worth it?

There are a number of state schools that offer a decent quality education for a reasonable price.

You should also consider scholarships. If one school offers you a better deal, it might be worth it to consider attending there, since you will have less to borrow.

Also consider the costs associated with living. Some areas have a higher cost of living than others. How much are the estimated costs for housing, food and books.

Are there alternatives for inexpensive entertainment? Take this into consideration as you prepare for college.

Programs Available

Does the school have the program you want? My husband isn’t attending the most prestigious school overall, but his department ranks in the top 25, and his program is also highly ranked.

When looking for a job upon completion, his program will have good recognition. The value for the money we are paying is much better than if he went to a big name school with a mediocre program.

This is especially true since my husband is working on an advanced degree.

You might also want to consider the variety of programs offered. If you are unsure of what you want to do, a university with a number of offerings might be the way to go.

Even though I had n idea of what I wanted to do, I changed my tune after attending college. Indeed, I went through three different majors.

Consider that your interests might change — or that you might discover a new interest once you have access to other options.

What’s Your Personal Style?

In many cases, college is more about what you make of it. I went to a small university in Southern Utah. However, I enjoyed my time there, involving myself in student government, getting a good internship, and winning an award for a research paper.

It’s small size allowed me to grow confidence in myself, enjoy personal attention from the Ph.D. professors that taught all of my classes, and become involved in a way that would have been impossible at a large university. All of these things helped me build my resume.

Others, though, thrive in an environment with more people and more excitement. Think about your own personal style, and what fits you.

Find out what is nearby. My school was located in an outdoorperson’s paradise, but was within three hours of Salt Lake City, Utah, and Las Vegas, Nevada.

I love a good day trip, and I love the outdoors. The entertainment options suited me fine. If I had wanted a happening night life, though, I would have been out of luck.

Getting (Some of) What You Want

In the end, it’s about finding something that offers you the experience you want, at a price you can afford. Sometimes you have to compromise, though.

I ended up turning down a full ride scholarship at one school to take “only” full tuition at the school I went to. After consider the pros and cons, I decided that working part-time and getting limited student loans, was worth it to go to a school that better suited my style, and offered me a little more flexibility.

What do you look for in a college?

Photo by Schlüsselbein2007

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About Miranda Marquit

Miranda Marquit is an author, journalist, and award-winning personal finance freelance writer. Her work can be found at The Hill, Investopedia, Student Loan Hero, US News & World Report, The Huffington Post, and many other outlets.

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