By Anthony F. Capraro, COO, College Outreach USA.
inding and applying to the best colleges for you is not supposed to be easy, but it can be fun. Parents, guidance counselors, and teachers are there to help you, so don’t struggle alone. Keep your sense of humor and a smile on your face as you go about researching, exploring, and discovering your ideal college.
Caliber of School Programs: Is the college known for its English department or chemistry department? What are its strengths?
Selectivity of Admissions: Is the college Most Competitive, Highly Competitive, Very Competitive, Competitive, Less Competitive or Noncompetitive?
Chances of Admission: Be realistic. What are your chances of getting in? How far can you reach? Listen when you are given advice.
Location of the School: Is the school near home, one hour away, 300 miles away, or across the United States?
Rural, Suburban, Urban Campus: Is the school in the city or in rural area?
Size of the School: Can you spend four years at a small liberal arts college of 800 undergraduates? Do you need the larger atmosphere of a university? Do not equate size with social life.
Public vs. Private: Is the college a large state university with most of the student population from the state where it’s located? Is it one of the public “Ivies”? Will your growth as a student and mature adult be better in a small private college?
Geographical Diversity: Is the college a regional one attracting students from the same state or region? Or is it a college, regardless of its size, which attracts students from all over the United States, or the world at large?
Cost of College: What is the tuition? What are the living costs? What are the travel costs are there from home to campus? Are there hidden costs?
Financial Aid: With a great percentage of undergraduates at many private colleges on financial aid of some type, where do you fit?
Living Conditions: Is housing on campus guaranteed for all four years? Are the dorms coed? Are there single-sex dorms? Are alternatives in housing available?
Socialization: Is it a grind school – all work, work, work? Is it fraternity and sorority oriented? What are the on-campus facilities for socialization?
Safety on Campus: Are the dorms secure and locked? What’s the safety system on campus?
Core Curriculum: Distribution Credits: Does the college require (for graduation) a specific number of credits in different academic disciplines? For example, does the student have to take six credits in philosophy before graduating? Is a self-designed curriculum possible?
Sophomore Standing: Does the college accept AP credits? Does it offer advanced standing for an AP course, or just a credit toward graduation?
Junior Year Abroad: Are there opportunities to study in Italy, Japan, or Australia, for example, while you are an undergraduate?
Internships: Are there opportunities for hands-on experience while in college? Which departments have formal internship opportunities?
Graduate School After College: What percentage of its graduates go on to graduate school immediately upon graduation, or within five years? What is the record of those who successfully get into the law, medical, or business school of their choice?
Placement After Graduation: Is there an office for job placement after college? Is there an alumni network that helps in job placement?
Weekend College: Do the students remain on campus on weekends, or is it a suitcase college?
Minorities: What percentage of the students are minorities? Reflect on the racial, ethnic and religious minority roles in the college you are considering. How would you feel being Jewish at a Roman Catholic college, for example – or Catholic at a Jewish college?
Sports Facilities: Is there a swimming pool? Are there horse stables? Is there an ice hockey rink on campus?
Library Facilities: How many books are in the library? Is the campus library tied into a larger network?
Athletic Programs: Is the ice hockey team a varsity sport? Does the lacrosse team play Division I and III? Is basketball strong? Do they have a women’s squash team?
Honors Programs: Are honors programs available? What are they? Who is eligible?
Student Body: Are the students politically active? Are they professional in orientation?
Faculty: Are all classes taught by full professors? Or are TAs (teaching assistants) the norm? Is the faculty available through office hours and/or the internet?
Computer: Are computers required of incoming freshmen? What are the facilities on campus? What hours are the computer labs open? Is the campus wireless?
Campus Visits: If possible, make a visit to the campus. Spend some time talking to students for a feel of the campus.
Special Talents: Recognize your special talents and discover where they’ll fit best.
Special Family Circumstances: Talk with your parents about their expectations. Discuss your needs as well as their thoughts.
Legacy: Does your family have a history at a specific school? Are you interested in continuing the tradition?
Note Well – Final List: Be sure that the final list is a realistic one. It should include “reaches,” “targets,” and “safeties.” No matter which one admits you – it must fit.
Last but not least is the Parent Credo: The right college is the one where your child will fit in scholastically and socially. Be realistic in your aspirations and support the child’s choice!