6 Major Keys to Choosing the Right College

6 Major Keys to Choosing the Right College

With a wide variety of choices, choosing the right college can be really stressful for any high school senior. You’ll need to consider a lot of factors like academic majors and programs or extracurricular activities and make sure that they offer opportunities that you are interested in. So before you start searching for colleges, you need to figure out what’s important to you. And although there is no magic formula for selecting a college, there are certain steps you can follow to find a good fit. To help you get started, we have gathered several key aspects that you should consider when evaluating a school before you apply.

Admission Rate

These metrics show the percentage of college applicants who are admitted. This aspect often reflects a college’s reputation and, sometimes, may even give you an idea about the quality of education.

The most elite universities in the United States are grouped colloquially as “Ivy League Schools” and are extremely selective of the students they accept into their programs. Of the Ivy League schools, Harvard University has the lowest acceptance rate in the country at 4.5%. In fact, out of the 43,330 students that applied to Harvard, only 1,950 students were accepted. The college with the  second lowest admission rate in the US is Columbia University, which boasted a 5.1% admission rate. Out of the 42,569 applicants for the 2019 school year, only 2,190 were accepted into the program.

Ivy League schools, while boasting the lowest admission rates in the US, top most college rankings when it comes to quality of education, graduation rate, and job candidacy.

On the other hand, public state schools, as well as community colleges are known to have higher acceptance rates while still providing quality education at more affordable rates. Community colleges, as a whole, have a 77% acceptance rate; with public community colleges having the highest acceptance rate at 82% and private community colleges at a 74% average admission rate.

So where does that leave you? Well, if you were good in high school and have a high SAT score, you can apply for colleges with lower admission rates that choose only the strongest applicants and have good chances for acceptance. But if you haven’t received the best grades in high school and even had to buy custom essays, you’d better apply for schools with higher acceptance rates.

Related: 20 Life Hacks for Every College Student

Graduation Rate

Graduating from college is your goal, right? Then you should review the percentage of students who complete their bachelor degrees to have a better idea of what your outcome might be. It can help you better evaluate your potential college. You should also take into account the freshman retention rate that shows how satisfied students are with their first-year experience.

In the context of this article, the statistics for graduation rates are specific to 4 year graduation rates, meaning the percentage of first time students that complete their bachelor’s degree in 4 years. While there is nothing wrong with taking extra semesters, classes, or terms beyond the regular 4 year track (especially if you change your major) you need to remember that these extra classes cost a lot of money. On top of that, most scholarships awarded to students only apply to 4 year programs, meaning that your scholarship won’t be valid for anything beyond 4 years or 8 semesters.

Juilliard School in New York, NY tops the list of average graduation rate at 94%, with Bowdoin College (located in Brunswick, ME) and College of the Holy Cross (located in Worcester, MA) being tied for second highest graduation rate at 91%.

Use College Rankings Carefully

You may check out well-known national rankings of colleges like: US News which uses different criteria for ranking schools every year in an attempt to make them better, Bloomberg Businessweek which determines rankings of business schools, and Forbes which uses a similar methodology to those used by US news but their rankings differ.

You should be cautious when using these college rankings as a “college guide” to help you decide your new home for the next few years, because they aren’t all as they seem. Each site uses their own combination of ranking factors, so you should consider all the information included in the rankings — they can tell you a lot about an institution. If you have an idea about you want to study as a major, you should look into the different college rankings for your specific major.

Majors and Degrees Available

Even the best schools can’t be the right options for you if they don’t offer a course of study that is right for you or the desired degree level. You should contact the school’s admission office to find out if your preferred area of study is available and if they offer the type of degree you want to pursue. Another way to learn about available majors and degrees in a college is to visit and browse their website.


Different colleges and universities have different price tags, and the cost of higher education has risen considerably. So before you choose a college, you need to determine how much you can afford to pay in tuition fees which may vary depending on the length of the program of your choice. You should also include costs of room and board to calculate how much you will need to pay to attend a school.

You need to remember that attending a university in your state will be much cheaper than attending an out of state school. In fact,  the average college tuition for the 2018-2019 school year for an in-state student at a public university was $10,230, while the average college tuition  for an out of state student was much higher at $26,290.

When making your decision, you should also consider opportunities for financial aid (federal student loans, federal or state grants, institutional scholarships, and grants). If you need financial aid, you’d better look for colleges that award scholarships and grants to students. Visit their website to find out what types of financial aid are available and find data about the percentage of students who get financial aid and its average amount. It will help you estimate your chances.

Related: 5 Ways to Ensure You Choose the Right College Majors

Job Placement Rates

Finally, the last tip in our college guide is to look at job placement rates. Find out how many school graduates in your preferred field get jobs after graduation. Many colleges publish such data about their graduates, and some of them even have good job placement programs. They help their students make the transition from students to employees and assist them in finding a job after graduation.

In conclusion, there are a lot of factors that you need to be aware of when choosing the right college for you. Choose the most important features you want in a college and make detailed lists to help you decide your own college ranking guide. Remember that finding the perfect college will take time and effort and that there is always a chance that you won’t be accepted into your school of choice. Have backup schools that you also like, so you have a plan if you don’t get accepted. With these tips in mind, we hope you are prepared to find your perfect university, good luck!

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