Factors to Consider when Choosing a Four-Year School
Before you decide which four-year school you will transfer to, there are a number of factors you might want to consider. Some of these factors are best considered only after a campus visit. Before you decide on a school, you are urged to arrange for a campus tour. A tour of the school is your opportunity to see a school first hand, not just from their brochures, and make your decision after you've gathered information. Schools regularly conduct campus tours but you should call the Admissions Office first to find out the exact process for arranging a tour. Here are some factors to think about before you make your final decision:
Housing Options: Some students want to live on-campus while others want to reside off-campus in their own apartment. Regardless of your preference, you will want to know what options are available to you as well as the cost of these options. If you want to live on-campus, what is the environment of the residence halls; are they conducive to studying? What amenities are included in the on-campus housing package, such as Internet connection? Can you visit the residence hall? (Note: it is best to visit while school is still in session. The best option would be to stay overnight with a host student in residence hall of any school you are seriously considering so you get a feel for the place at night when most studying will have to happen.)
Size of the School: How many students are enrolled in classes? Is it 2,000 or 20,000? Will you get the personal attention you want or will you be anonymous? How does this affect the average class size? Will your classes contain 300 students in a lecture hall or will there be small class sizes? Arrange for a campus tour on a day when classes are in session so you can see what an actual class of yours might look like.
Location of the School: Where exactly is the school located? What is the size of community; is it in a suburb or city? Can you live and thrive in this type of environment? What cultural activities are available in the community? What are the in-town and out-of-town public transportation possibilities?
Cost of Attendance: Is the price reasonable and affordable? How much financial aid can you receive to help pay for school? How much will your education cost after you apply any grants and scholarships? If you have unmet need, can you take out loans? If so, how much debt are you willing to acquire or able to pay off after graduation?
Admissions Criteria: Based on the school's admissions policies and procedures, do you meet the minimum qualifications for acceptance? Does your intended program of study or major have a separate admissions process that you can successfully complete?
Placement Rate: Are there services available to help you find employment upon graduation? If yes, what types of services? What percentage of students successfully obtain employment after earning their degree?
Personal safety: What is the campus crime rate? Is security available and accessible? Ask students on campus: Do you feel safe? If you plan to live on campus, what is the security of the residence halls?
Social Events: What types of social activities and/or extra-curricular activities are available to you? Is there a particular athletic team or organization in which you are interested available? Is there an organization related to your major? Ask students what activities exist and if they participate; why or why not?
Majors Offered: Does the school offer the major in which you are interested? If you are undecided about a major, what majors does the school offer? Are you interested in any of these? Does the school offer a career exploration course or career counseling to help you make a decision about your future?
Distance from Home: How close or far from your home town is the school? Can you bring a car to campus? Where are the parking lots and how much will it cost to park? Is there other transportation available? Is this a commuter school or do students usually stay on campus on weekends?
Services Available: What services are available to students, such as tutoring, career counseling, advising, etc... Are these services readily available and easily accessible? Are the hours of operation flexible? Ask students about availability of advisors, peer mentor programs, faculty office hours, etc. What computer facilities are available to you and what are their hours?
Reputation of the School: What do others say about the school? Do many students continue on to graduate or professional programs? Check publications such as US News and World Report and Money Magazine which rank schools annually. Also, what is the quality of instruction? What percentage of classes are taught by graduate assistants or adjunct faculty? Check the credentials of faculty in the school's college catalog
What Students Say: Find out what current students think about the school; ask questions of current students on your campus tour, such as:
- Why they chose that particular school?
- Are they happy with their decision?
- What do you need to know about this school that isn't in the brochures?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of this school or of this major?