A graduating senior (and QDT intern!) shares five things she thinks you should consider when choosing a college.
It’s that time of year again, when high school seniors find themselves scrambling to decide what college to commit to for the next four years of their lives. I was in that place four years ago, and looking back, I’ve realized just how much of the important details get overlooked during the decision process. It’s easy to get caught up in all the frivolous stuff, like which school has the prettiest buildings or the coolest swimming pool. But in the end the real goal is finding a place where you’ll be happy, healthy, and prepared to enter the real world. Here’s a list of five not-so-obvious things you should take into consideration when picking a school, from a soon-to-be college graduate.
1.) Look Closely at Student Services
Nowadays it seems like every school boasts a wide array of facilities on campus. From enormous student centers to state-of-the art libraries, every college I visited seemed like an educational paradise. However, often times these exciting features aren’t quite as accessible as they may seem.
Check out the hours campus facilities are open. That coffee shop may look cool, but what use is it if it doesn’t open until noon? You might plan to pull all-nighters in the library, but what will you do if it closes at eight? If you’re planning on commuting, make sure there are places for you to hang out and store your books during the day, and if you’re a resident, make sure you have all the resources you need to get your work done on campus.
It’s especially important to investigate each college’s health center. Most schools have one, but plenty have long wait times or inconvenient hours. There’s nothing worse than getting the flu and finding out there’s a long wait to see a doctor, or worse, the health center isn’t open at all during the weekend. At my own school, it was recently reported that due to a lack of resources, there was a waitlist for counseling services. While it’s never fun to think about the times you may be sick or stressed, you have to remember these things happen and you’ll need access to resources that can help.
Many school facilities post their hours online, and you can always reach out to the school regarding questions about wait times. However, another great resource is checking what the students are saying online. Are there angry tweets about all the computers in library being taken? Has a campus paper done an expose on long wait times at the health center? Make sure your school has the resources you need before you actually need them.
2.) Calculate Hidden Costs
We’ve been hearing a lot about the sky-high cost of a college education lately, and a college’s price is certainly one of the first things on each student’s radar. I think we can all agree it’s ideal to seek out the most affordable option. However, “most affordable” isn’t always quite as straightforward as the numbers on your financial aid packet.
Check out the graduation rate at each school—if the number seems a bit low, there might be a good reason. At some large schools, required courses get filled quickly and prevent some students from taking required courses by graduation. Additionally, program requirements vary so greatly that if a student wants to switch majors, he or she may fall behind. If you’re going in undeclared, look out for colleges with a large amount of core requirements; it may be annoying to have to take a variety of classes outside your field of interest, but it generally makes it easier to switch majors and still graduate on time.