College-bound high school juniors have a lot on their plate this year between testing and assembling materials for the college applications. If they haven’t begun already, they will begin to look at potential colleges soon, and some of the key factors they will evaluate may include the look and size of the campus, quality of campus life, honors and study-abroad programs, fraternities and sororities, and athletic programs. However, before the student makes a commitment to any college, here are ten important criteria they should consider:
1) Number of Course Requirements
Course requirements vary greatly from school to school. You don’t want to find yourself stuck in courses that don’t interest you while you’re unable to take electives in areas that do interest you.
2) Flexibility of Course Requirements
Schools that require specific courses can put you in a bind if you’d rather take more advanced courses or need to take more remedial courses. Be sure to check that the school allows a choice of course-levels to satisfy your requirements. Also, keep in mind that many top professors avoid teaching required courses which route hundreds of students through them.
3) Availability of your College Major
Never assume your college of choice offers every possible major, especially if you have a specialized major in mind. It’s critical to check the list of majors at each college. Also, at certain colleges, some majors are not open to all students, especially those which are extremely popular (psychology or journalism) or require talent or training (music or art).
4) Availability of Desired Classes
College enrollments have increased in the past few years, but the faculty size has not grown commensurately. As a result, there may be long waiting lists for some classes and shortages in first-year classes for students who did not register at the earliest-possible date. Be sure to check the availability of your desired courses before sending your acceptance letter to the college.
5) Availability of Professors Teaching the Course
A significant number of instructors are graduate students at state universities, and it’s important to know how much of your instruction, especially in the first years of college, will be designated to graduate student teachers. It’s okay if a regular professor gives the lectures and the grad student leads discussion sections; however, the real issue arises at schools where grad students are allowed to teach entire courses on their own.
6) Student/Faculty Ratio
You’re likely to get more individual attention from the faculty if you attend a school with a ratio of 10 to 20 students per professor.Once the student-ratio exceeds 20, you may not receive as much one-on-one attention from the professor.
7) Percentage of Students Who Graduate
A school with a graduation rate above 80% is good, and a graduation rate of 60 – 80% is normal; however, a school with a graduation rate under 60% is not good. Also, be sure to determine the average time a student takes to receive a degree; you may want to avoid schools whose students take an average of six to seven years to graduate.
8) Quality of the Career Placement Department
Very few students think to ask about the career placement department, but this should be a key item on your checklist. Students should be aware of the college’s job placement services, percentage of graduates who are employed before graduation, and which companies and organizations usually recruit from the college.
9) Availability of Online Classes
Some colleges offer online classes, which can be cheaper than traditional classes, and some students prefer to go online to take classes that aren’t in their major so they can focus more time on major classes.
10) The Total Cost of College
If you plan to attend college, you should know the total cost of obtaining the degree before choosing that college, and you should also research any opportunities to receive financial aid to help offset that total cost. Knowing if the college rewards a high-achieving student, how it disperses financial aid, what grants and scholarships are available, and the average student debt after graduating are all necessary pieces of information.
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