Academics Aside: 10 Factors to Consider in Choosing a College

Elizabeth Hoyt

April 09, 2019

Academics Aside: 10 Factors to Consider in Choosing a College
Academics are important, but they aren't everything!
Academics are important, but they aren't everything. There are plenty of other factors you need to consider in choosing a college, too. Make sure you consider all aspects, using this list as a helpful guideline. Ask yourself about the following ten aspects, along with relevant questions, when making that college decision to ensure you’re choosing the best college fit:

1. Intensity of spirit

Maybe you love spirit or, maybe, not so much. This is important to consider in attending a school because, schools with intense school spirit basically shut down on game days. Even if you’re not into sports, you can still enjoy school spirit. But, if you’re not super into student fandom (or don’t see yourself ever becoming that way), these events may get on your nerves all too often.
Ask yourself: • Would I ever attend a game?
• Will huge tailgates and massive alumni visits irritate me?
• Do I enjoy getting into school spirit?
• Will I become a hermit during certain seasons?

2. Campus location

Consider the distance you’ll be from home, as well as the location of the campus to surrounding cities. Ask yourself: • Can you handle being across the country?
• What about the expenses involved in coming home for holidays or other visits – are you okay with those?
• Will you go home too frequently if you’re nearby?
• Will you get more parental drop-ins than you’d like? (Note: this may seem like a bad thing but, once you’re in school you may like these! Free meals and, perhaps, groceries!)
• The campus is great, but is it close to anything else? Ensure you’re prepared for being close or far by weighing the different scenarios of different location options.

3. Campus size

There are classic college questions and they usually boil down to one important consideration. Do you want to be a big fish in a little pond or a little fish in a big pond? Ask yourself: • Will I be comfortable with large groups of people?
• Would I prefer recognizing people or being able to hide in the crowd?
• Do students say the school seems larger or smaller than it actually is?
• Will this campus bring me out of my shell or intimidate me?

4. Housing options

It’s important to think about the type of living situation you prefer and whether or not the school has options available. Ask yourself: • What type of environment would I feel comfortable living in?
• Is there any type of environment I would feel absolutely uncomfortable with?
• What are my deal breakers, in terms of living situations? Consider criteria like same sex versus co-ed dorms, multiple roommates versus one roommate and amenities, like bathrooms being in the room or communal. All of these are pertinent to whether or not you’ll feel comfortable within your new setting so you should definitely explore the options available.

5. Variety of campus clubs, organizations and Greek life

Ask yourself: • Do you want to join a sorority or fraternity?
• Will I feel like an outsider if I don’t join a Greek organization?
• What is the ratio of students who join Greek organizations to students who don’t?
• How about becoming involved in a club or sport?
These are all aspects that will affect your college experience positively or negatively. If Greek life is super common on campus and you hate the idea, it’s something to consider.

6. Religious affiliations

If you’re not religious, you may want to think about the pros and cons of attending a school with a religious affiliation. Ask yourself: • Is there an overall religious focus on campus?
• Will I feel comfortable attending a school with a religious affiliation?
• Are there places to celebrate my religious affiliation on campus?
• Will the focus on religion within classes or on campus make me more or less comfortable in my surroundings?

7. Food

Everyone has to eat! It may seem like all-college-food-was-created-equally but, when you’re eating somewhere daily, it matters a lot more than in theory. All college food is not created equally, by the way, especially if you have dietary restrictions or allergies! Ask yourself: • Do you have special dietary needs?
• If so, can those needs be met?
• Are the meal packages affordable?
• Does the food look edible?
• What do current students say about the food?

8. Diversity on campus

Pretty much every college claims to have a diverse campus, but it’s up to you whether or not that’s true. Going to college is a way to meet other students from different backgrounds and get to know others. Ask yourself: • Does the campus seem diverse?
• Do students from different backgrounds seem to interact often?
• Do I see myself feeling comfortable here?
• Do I feel comfortable enough to fit in – or not? It’s also important to consider whether or not there’s a sense of community. Diversity on campus won’t help you much if nobody interacts with one another and there’s not a sense of community on campus. You can, however, always combat that yourself with friendliness and openness.

9. Study abroad programs

Study abroad is a great way to see the world while gaining an education. If there are specific countries or programs you’d be interested, find out whether or not the school has the options you’re looking for. Ask yourself: • Are study abroad programs offered within my major?
• Am I able to study abroad within the country I’ve always wanted?
• Are the study abroad programs strong at this school?
• Are the academics strong within these study abroad programs?

10. Financial aid options

Attending a school you can’t afford is never a good idea. But, if the school offers financial aid, you still may be able to become a student. Evaluate the options the school offers specifically for your situation. Ask yourself: • What types of financial aid options are available to me?
• Does it seem realistic to attend this school without financial aid?
• What will my cost be once financial aid is taken into account?

Other than academics, what else should students consider in choosing a college? Let us know below!

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