As students ponder the many post-secondary school options available to them there is an intimidating number of things to consider. Before getting too overwhelmed or coming face-to-face with information overload, I suggest considering five things. Once you have taken these things into account, I think you will find the process less stressful and more enjoyable. And of course, then you can take into account any of the many other considerations that may or may not impact your decision.
When looking at post-secondary options, priority number one really should be the academic program. After all, you want to go to a school that has a program you’re interested in. But it isn’t that simple. You will also want to consider the different variations of that subject and how it can translate into different programs. Have you considered what subjects are you interested in and the kinds of programs that relate to those subjects? Many schools offer regular and cooperative sections in the same program. Is a co-op the right choice for you? Where do the programs you are considering lead? Further education at the graduate or doctoral level or straight into a career? Do the schools you are applying to offer international exchanges and is this something that might interest you?
Where do you want to go to school next year? I don’t mean the school, but the city or town. Do you want to be just around the corner or somewhere far from home in another country? How far from home do you want to be? Is it easy to get home? Do you want to live in a bigger and potentially more diverse city? Or, somewhere a bit smaller and more laid back, more suited to your personality? How important is it to be close to friends and family? Do you know other people who are going to the same university?
Though academics are job #1, even the most diligent student needs some downtime to do the things they love. These are the activities that define them and keep them mentally and physically healthy and able to do their best when in class. Some will be things you have experience with already, but others will be brand new. And, not unlike high school, many of your most cherished post-secondary memories will happen outside of the classroom. So again, weigh your options carefully. What kinds of events can you attend on campus? What clubs and sports teams are available? What are the fitness facilities like and where are they located? What are the hours of access? How do you join your university’s student government? Can you volunteer on campus or within the local community? Are there places to celebrate your faith on or in close proximity to campus?
A major consideration when choosing a college or university is size. After all, universities and colleges come in small, medium, and large. Each size has its own advantages. How do you know what the right size is for you? Small schools boast small class sizes and close-knit communities. Larger schools, on the other hand, usually offer hundreds of student organizations and active student communities. Just remember every school has something great to offer, no matter the size of the student population. In the end, it will come down to your personality and what size fits best and makes you feel most comfortable.
The postsecondary institution you select will truly be your home away from home for the next 4 years or more. Especially during your first year of college or university, you will spend most of your time on campus, so it is important that you feel at home. When selecting a school, it is important to narrow down your choices carefully by taking stock of what is important to you. Would you prefer a traditional campus with everything clustered together or a campus spread across a wide area? Do you want a busy urban campus or more of a more rural setting? Do you see yourself surrounded by ivy-covered buildings or something more modern? Are the students who go there enthusiastic, proud, or happy? Do they have school spirit? Most graduates love their school, but going into the relationship with a positive view of the campus is important as well and sets you up for success and happiness down the road.
The post-secondary school selection process can be overwhelming. With 163 recognized public and private universities (including theological schools) and 183 recognized public colleges and institutes, including those granting applied and bachelor’s degrees the possibilities are staggering. Narrowing down the list is an important first step. And considering these five criteria will help you in the process and help you to make the right choices for you!