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Making The Right College Choice for You is the Key to Happiness and Success

Feb 25, 2008
Location! Location! Location! Yes, this is the motto for buying real estate! However, it is a very big consideration that is often neglected when choosing where you will go to school. The weather can determine many things such as: The time spent outdoors, the difference between seasons, ability to play sports outdoors, snow, rainfall, heat, whether you will need air conditioning or heating where you live, ability to drive a car (eg. excessive snow falls or ice), what clothes you will take or need to buy, areas that are hit by natural disasters seasonally (eg. Hurricanes in Florida) will affect your time at the school.

The weather is a huge consideration for most people when it comes to choosing schools where there are extreme differences in the weather and seasons. You may have to endure months of snow and ice in some states which will reduce the amount of time that you can spend outdoors. This will be a problem if you are an athlete that plays outdoors.

The best advice here is to make a list of what you want; your preferences weather wise, and then check off each item as you look into schools. It shouldn't be the only determining factor when deciding on schools.

When you are looking at schools it is extremely important to do some research into the schools location. The USA is a large and diverse country in that many states and regions will differ from each other quite significantly. You will need to research the following key points to see if this school is right for you based on where it is located: What state is the school in? Will you pay in-state or out of state fees? Is it in a big city? Is it in a small rural area? Does it have a good public transport system, if not you will need a car. Is it near a major airport? What is the driving distance from the school to the nearest shops? Is it near mountains, beaches or lakes?

Are you a city person or a country person? City life brings about both positive and negative attributes just as those associated with schools located in more remote towns. Often towns are called "college towns" in the sense that the life of the town depends on the business from the college population. Shops, bars, restaurants, movie theatres and so on depend purely on the college.

If you decide to attend a college away from the city then you may be able to experience more of the outdoor activities such as skiing, kayaking, camping or even hiking at a nearby mountain.

One common aspect of attending a small rural college is that you will experience a different relationship with your college professors. Often they will know your name and are more accessible to assist you with your own personal needs. When I was in college we would often attend social events, BBQ's etc. at our professor's homes. This would be less likely to occur at a larger city college.

Another key issue is the security factor associated with your college campus. You will tend to find that rural campuses take on a more secure feel due to their location away from the big city. Many rural college campuses are located in remote areas so their peaceful surroundings can give you that instant sense of security that is not found in the more congested city campuses.

Some of the benefits of going to a college in a big city include: Close to transport, close to a major airport, more bars and clubs, sporting events with professional teams, other schools near by, more social choices and options, close to government offices, competition from shops so there are more choices, close to major libraries thus making it easier to conduct research and find more resources for school papers, reports, thesis etc.

Some of the negative aspects of going to a college in a big city include: Potential for more violence and crime, more pollution, more traffic, more distractions, increased costs associated with city living, more noise, less likely to get to know your professors. You may be just a number to them. You may be intimidated by the size of the school

Your Checklist for Choosing Your College or University should include the following: City or country, in-state or out of state, weather, cost, number of students at the school, availability of funding, tuition fees, reputation, what is your sports coach like if you are an athlete, can you get a sport scholarship, what is the budget of your team, sports facilities, quality of residence hall or dormitory, food available in the dining hall, other fast food restaurants on campus, are there shops near by, fraternities or sororities, on-campus social events, homecoming, reputation of faculty and programs, job availability, religious affiliation, transport availability on and off campus, selection of majors to choose from, foreign exchange opportunities and student services.

Some schools have special areas of study that they specialize in and some schools try to maintain their reputation for having a great program in a particular field of study (eg. business). Some schools have graduate programs while others just focus on their undergraduate programs. Some schools are co-ed with both males and females attending while others are single-sex. Some have a stronger religious aspect than others. As you see schools can vary significantly and it is up to you to do your own research otherwise you may find that the school is not for you.

Not all colleges cost the same amount and each school will vary in the amount of financial aid that you may be able to receive. This is a big factor for many students and their parents when choosing a college.

Schools vary in the demographics of their students. You will often find a noticeable difference between the big schools found in the cities compared to the smaller schools found in the more rural areas. Obviously schools with small student population will take on a feel of being a big family where everyone seems to know everyone and what they have been up to.

You will find schools of all sizes with student populations ranging anywhere from as low as 800 students to well over 30,000 plus. This will come down to your own personal wants and needs when deciding on the size of the school. The bigger schools will obviously offer more options with classes, majors and resources.

If you desire the big football games or big basketball games then you may want to choose one of the well known big schools that have successful programs for these sports. If you are looking for an athletic scholarship for yourself, then you will likely find more competition amongst current and new students for those limited scholarships. It may be easier to obtain a scholarship at a smaller or less popular school in a more remote location.

Colleges in the United States are either funded publicly or privately. You will find that the public colleges are less expensive than private schools due to the fact that public schools are funded by each state.

You will find that private colleges are funded by higher fees, private gifts from donors, contributions from the corporate world and endowments. You will find that private schools are more expensive but you will also likely find that these private schools offer more financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships.
Private colleges are also likely to be smaller in student population size and are therefore more suited to those students looking for smaller classes and being able to develop a more personal student-professor relationship.

This is a very personal decision based on your own beliefs, values and needs. You will find colleges that are associated with a religious organization which will also require you to participate in their religious activities. There are also colleges that are associated with a specific religion but you will often find a wide range of students from varying religious back grounds who attend that college.

When searching the many "college search directory" sites you will be able to be more specific in selecting schools based on these religious needs. For some students the religious aspect of choosing their school will take on more priority than many of the other issues associated with college selection.

It is important to take some time in selecting your college. Going to college can often be a life-changing experience so you will want to try and get it right with your first choice. Good luck with your college planning and school selection!
About the Author
David Horne is co-founder of the College Help Guide. To learn more about financial aid, your college search, admissions, planning and going to college in the USA you should visit College Help Guide
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