Quality Versus Costs in College Choice

Distinguish quality versus costs in college choices.

By Pamela K. Fay-Williams

March 09, 2009

Quality Versus Costs in College Choice Quality Versus Costs in College Choice

As a student choosing a college to attend, you become a consumer. As you make this important decision in your life, you want to be aware of costs and attentive to your own needs. In order to assure that you will thrive at the college you select, you want to decide on a college with qualities that match your wants, needs and interests. Sometimes, that may not be the least costly alternative.

Here are some ways to judge the quality of a college.

1. Visit it! Visiting is the most important aspect of making a good decision because you can judge whether the college fits you. When you visit, meet with an admission officer, go to classes, talk to students, eat in the cafeteria and check out the library, the bookstore, the student union and the residence halls. Some colleges will even let you spend the night.
2. Ask about the college’s retention rate. The retention rate will tell you the percentage of students who remain at the college for four years. This is an important measure of whether students are satisfied with their experience at the college.
3. Ask about the college’s graduation rate. The graduation rate will tell you the percentage of students who graduate from the college within a four-year period. This is an important measure because it tells you whether students are able to get the courses and the support they need to graduate on time.
4. Ask about what the college’s graduates do. By knowing this information, you can judge whether or not you would be able to meet your goals.
5. Get the details on their financial aid packages. Make sure that any merit scholarships you receive from the college cover all four years, if you maintain a reasonable grade point average.

A good and successful college search, resulting in a match between you and the college you choose, is one in which you know what you want and you dig deep for information about the college. As you choose a college to attend and consider the cost of attending that college, keep in mind the qualities that will help you be successful.

Pamela K. Fay-Williams has been a school administrator and counselor for over twenty-five years in Virginia, Rhode Island and Minnesota. Ms. Fay-Williams is a former president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling and a former member of the Southern Regional Council of The College Board.

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