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How to Choose an College: A Beginner’s Guide To Higher Education

Updated on March 8, 2012

Choosing a college can be a daunting task for a senior in high school or someone who is looking to return to school. But it is not as hard as it seems. Here is a guide for picking your college:

What is College?

College is an institution for higher education. Before choosing a college, you must understand the type of higher educations that is available as well as how they fit with what your goals are.

1) 4 Year College & University: A more traditional way of learning where students goes to class full time for 4 year. A college usually only offers a Bachelors Degree while University offers Masters and PhD. This option is good if you have the time to study.

2) 2 Year college: You can earn an Associate degree from a 2 year college. It is quicker and cheaper than the traditional 4 year college. You can also use the 2 year college to transfer to a 4 year college, which many do. Considers going if you are looking for a cheap way to learn, your high school transcript is weak, you want to go to a trade school.

3) SpecialtySchool: School where you learn a certain trade that can prepare you directly to the work force.

4) Distance-LearningSchool: School where you can take classes online. This is perfect for working people who needs flexibility in their schedule. Some of the elite schools have distance-learning program designs for the people who work full time.

Colleges | Source

Public vs. Private Colleges

A public university usually means its research is available for everyone to use while a private university means its research belong to the school.

1) Elite Private School: These are usually the Ivies league school: Brown, Columbia, Cornell,Dartmouth,Harvard,Pennsylvania,Princeton, and Yale. They are well known for being the best education you can get. Beside the reputations, their teachers are also at the top of their profession. Adding to their already stellar reputation, some of the alumni have been well known politician, business leaders…etc.

2) Elite Public School: School includes University of California—Berkeley, University of Wisconsin, University of Michigan, University of Florida, University of North Carolina, University of Virginia, University of California—Los Angeles, State University of New York at Binghamton, University of Washington, College of William and Mary. These schools are well known to provide high quality educations at a much cheaper price than its private counterparts. The numbers of student are usually much larger at these institutions too.

There are others elite private and public schools and it all depends on the majors that you choose. School such as MIT,Stafford...etc are all quality school. But usually a public school is much cheaper than a private school.

Instate vs. Outer-state

A state school is a school that received public funding. It is usually title “University of _____”. Do not forgo these school, some of them have reputation that rivals ivy leagues school and are even harder to get into. Deciding if going to a school in your current state or outer-state is a huge decision:

1) Instate school: Considers these schools if you do not want to go far from home or you want to commute. These schools are generally cheaper for you since you will be paying instate-tuition.

2) Outer-state: Go out of state if you know the school that you truly want to attend. It will cost much more since you will be paying for outer-state tuitions. You also have to pay for living accommodation.

College Cultures

Before you choose to go to any of these schools, it is recommended that you visit them. Most college offers tour through their campus. Know what the school feels like to see if you are a fits, you might find out that a large school is not for you. Every school is different and some will be a much better fits to you than others. Try to visit as many schools as possible.


Once you know what type of higher education you want to attend, you need to look at the ranking of these institutions. Although the ranking of your school should not be the final factor in your decision, consider it. The ranking varies by majors so if you have an idea of what you want to do, look it up. Usually, successful people who graduate from a certain school like to hires people from the same school.

Putting It All Together

Okay there seems to be a lot of information! But relax, its not that hard to figure out what choices to make.

1) Think of your goals and how which school fit what you want.

2) Decide if you want to study at home, near home, or out of state. If you want to study in state, then that reduces your choices tremendously.

3) Think of how much you can affords, how much loans you will have to take out, and how much will your parents support you.

4) Then with your current lists of colleges, try to visit as much school as possible to see which fits you.

5) Consider the ranking; the higher the ranking of the school that also that fits you and your budget should be the school you want to attends.

6) Know the admission requirements: If you have a low GPA with no recommendations, and you did not participate in any activities, you probably will not get into Harvard.


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      Gordon D Easingwood 5 years ago from Wakefield, United Kingdom

      Interesting insight into American colleges (I am from the UK).