Five things to look for when doing a college search

So, you've decided to go to college and earn your degree – congratulations! This is one of the biggest decisions you'll ever make, and a bachelor's degree can be a valuable investment in your future. However, before you think about filling out a college application, you need to decide which schools you're going to apply to. Here are a few things to think about when doing a college search.

• The right program: This should be the most important thing in any college search. Sure, cost, distance and other factors matter, but finding the right degree program for you should be your top priority when doing a college search.

• Graduation rates: Although this shouldn't be the only thing you look at when you're doing a college search, graduation rates – the number of students who successfully finish their degree programs – are important. If a college's graduation rate is very low, it could mean that the faculty at the school aren't particularly good, or there's a problem with the degree programs themselves.

• Tuition and other costs: Earning a college degree can be expensive. Before you fill out a college application, think about how much the tuition will cost. Although financial aid packages such as scholarships can make attending school more affordable, you may have to take out student loans in order to pay for your classes. The higher the tuition, the higher the repayments after you graduate.

• Room and board: If you're planning on studying out-of-state or away from home, you might be considering living on-campus. If so, you need to look into how much this will cost. However, although living in the dorms can be an additional expense, it's also a great way to really experience campus life and feel more connected to your school. For many freshmen, college is the first time they've lived away from home, and this can be a valuable and important life experience.

• Financial aid: Unless you're fortunate enough to not have to borrow money to attend school, you're probably going to need to take out some student loans. However, make sure to research merit-based financial aid packages such as scholarships when doing a college search. Many schools provide additional funding for hard-working students, so ask the admissions officials at your prospective schools about these programs.

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  1. Susie Watts says:

    As a private college counselor, I agree that finding colleges and universities with the right degree program is important. However, many if not most of the students I work with do not have a specific degree program in mind. For this reason, I like to suggest schools that offer a major is an area that they may be considering, but enough other options if they change their minds as, they often do. There are many small and larger schools that provide plenty of college majors from which to choose.

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