Top 10 Things to Research in a College
If you are interested in attending college, we have the top 10 things to research in a college that you may find helpful. Let’s start with the application requirement.
1. Application Process
Deadlines and application requirements vary from school to school. It’s important to research whether the college has set admission dates or if there is a rolling admission. This will help you determine when you need to apply, what transcripts you need, what admission assessments there are, whether or not you must write an essay (and what the topic is), and whether you need to collect recommendation letters to submit. It takes times to gather these items and the worse thing you could do is not meet the requirements by the posted deadline.
Viewing whether there is a rolling admission or not can also allow you to figure out whether you can start when you’d like to. For instance, some schools run their classes every six weeks, others run their classes quarterly, while others run every semester.
2. Admission Rate
The admission rate gives you an indication of the percentage of students that apply verse those applicants that gain acceptance. A college that has a lower acceptance rate is harder to get into, so the higher the acceptance rate the more potential there is that you will be accepted too. There are tons of factors that colleges consider when deciding which students to accept. Grades, SAT, ACT, and a diverse student body that come from various backgrounds, volunteer experience, and abilities are just some of the factors considered.
Accreditation is also an important factor. If you don’t know what accreditation means, let’s explain it. According to the U.S. Department of Education,
Accreditation is the recognition that an institution maintains standards requisite for its graduates to gain admission to other reputable institutions of higher learning or to achieve credentials for professional practice. The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.
There are many schools that have not gained accreditation yet. This could mean the school is in the preliminary stages of applying for accreditation, in the process of being reviewed for accreditation, or did not pass accreditation. Not being accredited becomes a barrier for students needing to transfer credits to another school, get licensed (especially in the medical field), or continue on to earn a graduate degree.
It is important to review the school’s accreditation and also ensure the degree program you are interested in has also passed accreditation (this is especially true for those of you going into the medical field). Many times, accreditation is listed on a college’s website. The accreditation is determined by the Department of Education, and the gold standard is Regional Accreditation. Learn how to research the accreditation of a college from our How to Research Colleges article.
4. Graduation Rate
The rate at which students graduate may also be a key component in deciding what school to go to. This indicates the time it takes a student to graduate with a degree. In addition, this percentage also gives you a good clue on the schools scheduling, retention of their students, and quality of their programs. You can ask the colleges admission office directly or you can find this information from a website the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has funded called the The Chronicle of Higher Education: College Completion.
5. Support Services
Support services for career counseling, academic tutoring, and accommodations for disabilities are also important. You may want to know that there are support resources in place when you attend school. Especially when attending a large school that may not have as much accessibility to the professors if you need extra help. If transitioning from high school (or if it has been awhile since you’ve attended college) looking up whether the school offers academic advising, study skills workshops, and tutorial support is helpful.
If you have differing abilities, you may want to research how accessible the campus is and what their disability resources consist of. You can start your initial research by visiting the colleges website and use the contact information provided to reach out before a site visit.
6. Scholarships and Financial Aid
Many colleges have funding that is only available to their students. Some colleges (especially state schools and universities) may offer reduced or free college tuition to in-state students that have held a high GPA as well. By the way, most colleges have federal aid available and may offer workshops to assist students in filling out these applications. By the way, if a college offers federal aid this is also a good indication that they are accredited through the Department of Education. Any free money available to you reduces the cost of college, this is worth the extra research when comparing schools.
Many colleges have a dormitory, off campus housing, and lodging options to their students. It is always a good idea to see what options are available and the vicinity to campus. Some campus are larger than others and may require a car or use of public transportation to get from one area of the campus to another. In addition, there may be a high demand for off campus housing, deadlines, and an application process, so start early. Another factor may be what happens during the holidays or breaks, some colleges close during these times and it may be very inconvenient for those who live far from home. Therefore, it may be important to find this out in advance.
8. Degree Programs Offered
Deciding on a major can be daunting and you may not know what career you are aiming for prior to starting school. However, it’s still important to look at what the college offers. All colleges have a list of their degree programs on their website or in their college catalog. There are schools that specialize in science, the arts, healthcare, or engineering. Researching your options in advance may save you the headache of transferring to another school to get the degree you want later.
9. Course Availability
Planning the courses you will take each semester can be essential to graduate on time. Most general education classes are consistently offered each term. However, courses that correlate with your major may not be. An academic advisor can assist in this process. Ask if the college has a master schedule for the major you are interested in. This may help to plan out each term to ensure a timely graduation.
10. Student Life
In addition to studying and academics, schools offer extracurricular activities, clubs, and organized sports. These activities may include clubs associated with a field of study, recreational groups, volunteer opportunities, religious organizations, and many more. This allows for a school-life balance to decompress or spend time with individuals that have similar interest. Along with activities, clubs, and sports, you’ll also want to explore the colleges other aspects of student life such as meal plans, the size of the school, where the college is location, safety, demographics, and even transportation.
U.S. Department of Education. FAQ About Accreditation.