Taking the first step of pursuing a degree is a big decision, and choosing the best college for your professional goals is paramount to your future. The importance of this decision shouldn’t be taken lightly and should be a reflection of what career or professional path a student later feels they would benefit from aspiring toward. Knowing how to find the right college is the first way to ensure that this major decision is not rushed or heavily weighed. Luckily, learning how to find the right college for you is mostly based on first asking yourself the right questions to make an educated decision down the line. Whether you plan to take classes in a traditional campus setting, completely online, or within a hybrid program, the college that hosts these programs should align with the student’s desires for their future.
In this article, we’ll explore what to look for in a college as well as what factors play the largest role in making the big decision. By properly preparing yourself to consider all factors and starting early enough to give yourself time to decide, students will be on their way to the professional future they’ve been waiting for.
6 Tips to Help You Find the Right College for You
Understanding how to identify the best college for your professional needs largely depends on two factors: area of interest and general accessibility. Applying to college often features application fees, so to maximize these investments it’s important to begin by making a list of colleges that boast the elements that matter most to the student. Here are the six major factors to consider when deciding which college is the best choice, from financial considerations to general location.
1. Determine primary areas of academic interest
At the core of pursuing a degree is a level of academic interest. The first thing that needs to happen when figuring out how to find the right college is making a list of areas of study that the student is most interested in. For example, you wouldn’t want to attend college to one day become a foreign language interpreter only to learn that there isn’t an option to major in interpretation or foreign languages.
While students typically do not have to formally declare a major until their junior year of college, it’s still imperative to have at least a rough idea of even a few areas of study that would be of interest. This will allow your list of chosen schools to be a proper reflection of your academic interests and future professional pursuits.
2. Understand the Importance of Accreditation
Once you’ve determined which online degree programs would be most interesting, it’s time to understand the importance of national accreditation for the programs that the student would be investing in. Especially for those who are planning to take online classes remotely, researching accreditation and information about the school’s curriculum can make the difference between a lukewarm education and a truly enriching one. This is a sadly overlooked priority but is of the highest importance for choosing the correct online degree program.
Receiving accreditation guarantees that the online school’s curriculum is to the standards established by the National Education Association (NEA). The NEA website is an easy way to identify online degree programs that will provide a legitimate and worthwhile education. Sadly, it’s fairly common to find illegitimate online colleges that forge accreditation to run a degree mill by creating an organization unapproved by the NEA. To properly understand how to find the right online college for you, it’s imperative to double-check accreditation.
3. Make a list of other things that are important to you
College is not only about graduating with a degree and gaining real-world experience before pursuing career prospects, it’s often about exploring your own identity and actualizing your wishes. Throughout your college research, consider making a list of other important factors that will play a role in your ultimate decision. Some students may value socialization and community as a part of their college experience, so exploring schools with a strong extracurricular culture is a smart choice. It also might be important for that student to have the opportunity to study abroad, so choosing schools without foreign learning opportunities wouldn’t be suggested.
Creating a list of other exciting goals for college is a great way to ensure that the school that is ultimately chosen is not only a reflection of their academic interests but also an opportunity to connect with others within their school’s community and professional staff. For online students and campus residents alike, a few examples of some things to consider outside of academic programs themselves include:
- Internship Opportunities
- Online Degree Programs
- Career Networking Events
- Community Forums
- Interview and Resume Coaching
- Academic and Social Clubs
4. Know what you can afford
The ultimate goal of learning how to find the right college for you is to choose a school that will result in graduating with a degree. Future students must know what they can realistically afford before they begin making any version of a final draft of a college wish list. Especially for those that prefer a streamlined education, properly anticipating tuition and additional fees associated with attending college is crucial for earning a degree.
We suggest beginning with a basic idea of a realistic budget for a four-year degree and then begin researching financial aid and scholarship opportunities for each school the student finds most interesting. Take note, online classes are a great way to get general education credits out of the way in a much more affordable manner. Each college is different in terms of what they’re able to offer students regarding aid, so make sure to not cross any colleges off the wish list until certain they would be out of the desired budget.
5. Go on campus visits!
This may go without saying, but if you’re choosing to pursue a traditional brick-and-mortar college education it’s highly suggested to check out the campus beforehand. College visits allow future students to get a more accurate snapshot of what campus culture is like at their college of interest. Many students can fall in love with a college brochure and program listing only to find that they can’t stand the college’s location or dormitory arrangements. Campus visits are designed to not only showcase a school’s best assets but also allow future students to make the best-educated decision they can toward attending the best school for their specific needs. After all, earning a degree can often take years, so enjoying the educational environment is the best way to set the student up for success. That’s why it’s a good idea for online students to also consider campus visits to ensure that the school is one that they’ll be proud to receive a degree from someday.
While attending campus visits, make sure to keep a folder of all the materials received during the tours so that they can be reviewed later on. While on campus, it’s much easier to see the school through rose-colored glasses, so make sure to review all your options after viewing each school to give them a fair chance and ensure the student has evaluated all their options.
6. Investigate post-graduation job opportunities
One of the largest assets of choosing to attend college is the exciting opportunities and connections forged while earning a degree. Many colleges offer career networking events as well as interview preparation services to help students get prepared for what to expect post-graduation. Even if a student’s career choice hasn’t been finalized yet, knowing that these valuable resources are available to you is a total game-changer when learning how to find the right college and online degree program.
Earning a degree without capitalizing on the community surrounding you is a mistake. The best college choice should be centered not only around what insight will be gained within that area of study but also the professional development and career preparation gained throughout the process. A successful college provides both the educational tools and real-world training for career advancement and prosperity, regardless of whether the class is attended in person or online.
There are many factors to consider when first learning how to find the right college. At this point, earning a degree has never been easier with the amount of accredited in-person and online degree programs that are available nationwide. Knowing how to identify the best college for you should always be centered around what you want your future to look like. Is the best college in a faraway city with network opportunities galore or perhaps in a rural school with rich campus culture and a sense of school spirit? Every student is different, but knowing which factors play the biggest role in enjoying a collegiate experience is key to making the correct call.
Ready to take the first step toward learning the right college for you? Explore a list of accredited faith-based colleges with both brick-and-mortar and online degrees available by visiting Bible College Online today!