With an abundance of post-secondary options available to students, finding a college that fits each student’s needs can seem like a daunting task. It is important to determine what factors are most significant in order to begin the process of narrowing down one’s final college list. Every institution will offer a varied experience, so finding the college that each student will thrive in, both academically and personally, is individual to the student. This process includes self-reflection and proper research and knowledge of each school.
Academically-based factors to consider include: admission requirements, majors offered, student-faculty ratio, typical class size, accreditation of the institution, and internship opportunities. What type of learning environment are you seeking out? What type of teaching styles are employed? Even if you are undecided about your college major, you want to make sure that the college you choose offers a wide variety of majors, and gives you the opportunity to explore possible majors through course offerings.
Environmental factors can play a vital role in the college selection process. These factors include: location, distance from home, size of student body, physical size of campus, school setting (i.e. urban or rural), religious affiliation, diversity, and type of school (public vs. private, co-ed vs. same-sex). Do you want to go to a school that is similar to MPA or are you seeking a different experience? Would you like to explore your independence further by going to a school that is far away, or would you like to have familial resources nearby? While public institutions can often be less expensive than private institutions, private institutions may offer each student more financial aid opportunities.
With college expenses continually on the rise, financial inquiries are necessary to consider, such as: tuition, room and board, application fees, deposits, percent of student population receiving aid, scholarships offered, and part-time employment opportunities. Is 100 percent of the financial need of each student met? Are scholarships merit-based, need-based, or both? Financial aid deadlines and appropriate forms to complete can vary by institution, so knowledge of each institution’s requirements is imperative.
Some additional factors to consider are: campus housing, food plans, clubs/organizations, Greek life, study abroad programs, athletics/intramurals, and alumni career services. Aside from academics, you will be engaging socially on campus as well. You want to make sure that each school provides the social and learning opportunities that you are looking for. These opportunities are a part of the educational experience.
Once all of these factors are prioritized, each student should research each school to determine college fit. Students can research online, visit with college representatives at MPA, attend college fairs and open houses, and arrange a campus visit. Since this is a lot of information to digest, my role as the College Counselor is to be a helpful resource to all students through what could be a daunting process. The MPA college counseling program provides students with the necessary tools to transition successfully to the next level by guiding each student through the appropriate steps of the college search, application, and selection process. A thorough evaluation process will lead to the most happiness with one’s decisions down the line.
By Karen Horvath
Mrs. Horvath is our College Counselor.