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Guidance » Choosing A College

Choosing A College

With over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, how do you know which is the "right" one for you? It is never too early to start your college search, but Junior year is the peak time to get your list of safety (you will almost certainly get into), target/match (you are pretty likely to get into), and reach (you may have a chance of getting into) schools.  Many Seniors, contemplating their college acceptance letters, may also need to use think through their priorities to make the right final choice of which college to attend.


Here are a few resources to help your build your list of target schools:
The following College Factors List will help you determine what you are looking for from a college. Add any colleges to your list of colleges I'm thinking about and colleges I'm applying to in your Naviance account.  
Remember, the "Best College" is the one that is Best for YOU.  Here are examples of what some students are looking for in a college:
  • Student A: undeclared, liberal, drama club, town or city campus, sunny weather, no fraternities, small classes
  • Student B: Teaching, rural campus, good sports atmosphere, conservative, no partying
  • Student C: Nursing, Community college then transfer to local CSU, live at home
  • Student D: Computer Science, city, good internship program, easy travel home



Majors available

Liberal Arts or Research University

General education requirements (e.g., great books program, math or foreign language required)

Ease of transfer to another major

Access to Professors

Class size

Ease of getting chosen classes

Number of years to graduate

Academic atmosphere (e.g., grades pressure, broad humanities focus, career focus)

Research possibilities at undergraduate level/postgrad studies available

Preparation for postgraduate study (e.g., Law school, PHd)

Preparation for postgraduate employment (e.g., internships)

Study Abroad opportunities

Advisor availability and academic support

Library and study facilities/support

College Type:

2 year or 4 year

Semester or Quarter system (students who like to be absorbed in a class for longer may prefer semesters; while those who prefer a faster pace may prefer the quarter system)

Coed or Single Sex

Religious affiliation

Part of distinct College Group (e.g., Ivy League, no SAT required, Jesuit)

Selectivity (from highly selective to easy to register)



Live at home or away

Distance from home

City, town, suburb, rural

Campus or mixed in



Housing and Welfare:

Housing Type and availability (e.g., single sex, theme, size)

Housing access to classes, shopping, library, food

Dorm Food quality, availability

Off Campus food access

Entertainment and activities near dorms

Health Care including counseling

Fitness Opportunities


College Atmosphere:


Campus politics




Fraternities and Sororities

Weekend activities (or local students go home?)

College traditions

Alcohol/Drug use/Partying

College town


Sports and Activities:

Playing Sport Varsity, Club, Intramural

Sport atmosphere for spectators

Clubs available (continue High School mock trial, debate, robotics, or opportunity try new clubs)



Acceptance rates

SAT/ACT scores required

Freshman retention rates and reasons

Graduation rates

Availability of jobs for students

ASB influence /importance

Financial Aid available Need based only or Merit available too

Disability support