Some important college qualities are easy to overlook. But they can have a profound impact on your college experience.
Cost, location, size, weather, academics... there are many obvious college factors to consider. But some key factors are not so obvious. Here's what to look for.
Academics and Support
- Class availability. Find out how easy it is to get into the classes you'll need, especially prerequisites—classes you must take before you can start taking classes in your major. If you can't get into those classes when you need to, starting your major and even graduating might be delayed.
- Support services. Like all students, college students can encounter problems—both academic and personal. Find out about support services, such as academic advising, health services, and counseling—and how easy it is to access these services.
- Class size calculation. If small classes are important to you, find out how the college calculates class size. Some colleges separately count the breakout sections of large lecture classes, leading to a smaller reported average size.
- Applying what you learn. If you want to spend time learning outside the classroom, ask about experiential learning opportunities such as service work or internships.
Beyond the Campus
- Interaction with the outside world. If you want to get away from the campus "bubble," find out how often students volunteer in the community or interact with the world through study and service work abroad.
- Weekends. What happens on campus when classes aren't in session? Do most students stay around? Or do they desert the campus? Weekends and other "down" times should be a vibrant part of your college experience.
- Taking a break. Are coffee houses, movie theaters, and restaurants nearby? How easy is it to get out of town? To the airport? Being able to get off campus easily—even for just a few hours—can have a huge impact on your experience.
- Alumni networks. How active is the alumni association? Graduates can be instrumental in locating internships, establishing business contacts, and networking in your field after graduation.
- College mission. Students rarely ask about the mission of the college and the principles of its founding. But these declarations strongly influence college values, culture, and future direction. Find this information on the college's website.
- Diversity. Living with diversity has become almost second nature to many students. You can get an idea of how diverse a campus is by visiting. But if that is not possible, take a close look at the student body's demographics, which are available on the college's website and in its College Profile on CollegeData.
- Use College Match to look up colleges and see information about many of these qualities. Look at the Academics, Campus Life, and Students pages of the College Profile.
- Get answers by talking to your admissions rep and current students, visiting the campus, and looking online.