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What is the Most Important Factor in Selecting a College?

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that degree-granting institutions saw a 22% increase in enrollment from 1991 to 2005. In 2005 alone, roughly 17.5 million students enrolled at colleges and universities around the country. But how did these students choose their schools with so many options out there? A recent survey on CollegeConfidential.com asked college coeds that very same question. Here’s a list of ten key factors students said they considered when making their decisions.

10. Family Tradition
Your older sister went there. Your mom and dad met at the homecoming game. Your grandfather was the dean there for goodness sakes. There’s so much history at this school that of course you want to go there. It’s part of the family. And some schools even offer legacy scholarships to make sure that it stays that way.

9. Friends and/or Girlfriend or Boyfriend
Having a familiar community can be very reassuring when you take the plunge into a new school and possibly a new city. This factor can be especially strong if it involves a girlfriend or boyfriend. Some people aren’t worth leaving behind.

8. Athletics Program
Especially for athletes, this is a big issue. For instance, aspiring NFL players may want to go to a school like Ohio State or Louisiana State University (LSU) where strong football programs can help them improve their abilities and get noticed by pro football scouts. Or perhaps, you just love the atmosphere around a strong sports program and enjoy the tailgating, body painting, and raucous cheering that goes on during game day. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

7. Geography
A little nervous about all these changes? That’s understandable. A lot of people want to stay close to the nest just in case. Of course, you may be on the opposite end of the spectrum and want to blow this town for greener pastures. In that case, you probably can’t be far enough away from home. Either way, you’ll want to consider the distance from your family in your decision.

6. Climate & Weather
Having a climate in line with your preferences can help you stay focused. If you’re a warm weather person, a Minnesota university may cool down your academic motivation. Though for some people, having to stay indoors may help you hit the books more and not get too distracted.

5. Location
Ask yourself if you like the city or town where your school is located. If you want to be close to the ocean, a Florida school may be more appealing than a Kansas college. If you love city life, then finding a college in or close to an urban area may be a priority. Plus, the right location can lead to strong job prospects. For instance, if you want to be a computer engineer, attending a California school near Silicon Valley puts you in the right place to transition to a job after school.

4. Tuition and Costs
It’s all about the Benjamins. With a 35% jump in tuition costs across public universities from 2001 to 2006, you’ll want to be sure to fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). While tuition prices may have gone up at many schools, it’s good to know that the U.S. Department of Education disbursed $78 billion dollars in financial aid for the 2005-2006 school year. And of course, you should talk with college advisors to find out what kinds of scholarships individual schools and academic programs can offer.

3. The College Feels Like Home
This consideration underlies an important aspect of your college search: be sure to visit your college if you’re going to a campus school. The Princeton Review suggests asking yourself one simple question: “Do I want to live here for four years?” This question most likely will encourage you to take into account some of the factors mentioned earlier, such as geography, climate, and location.

2. The Institution’s Prestige
A college’s standing in local communities and around the nation can help open some career doors down the road. Many students are lured in by the academic renown of Ivy League schools. But the top factor for choosing a school is

Publish date: June 30, 2008