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Factors to Consider when Choosing a School

Choosing a school is a big decision, and can easily become overwhelming. There are many factors and variables that need to be considered when making the decision. Here are several important variables to consider when selecting a college. Review each one and then identify the ones most important to you. When you are considering schools, you can then refer back to this list to see if the school offers programs and services that match your priorities.


Cost is an important factor to consider when choosing a school. Ask yourself if you can afford tuition if you are accepted into a particular school. Remember to factor in the financial aid the school is likely to offer you, and to find and apply for as many scholarships as possible.


When looking at schools, ask yourself whether you'd rather be in a rural, suburban, or urban location. How far is the school from where you would live, and does that matter to you? Does the town require you to invest in a car or will you be able to use public transportation to access the town in which you live in.


Some schools are more selective than others. You may want to research the acceptance rates of colleges you're considering before applying. More well-known colleges are generally more selective. Consider your chances of being accepted into a well-known “name school,” and ask yourself whether you would be happier at a lesser-known school. Although a degree from certain colleges has a lot of weight behind it, in the end what really matters is the quality of the education you receive and the experiences you have.

Services and Programs for International Students

If you are travelling from another country for school, you may want to look into any international student programs and services provided by a school. Does this school provide a variety of programs, services and activities to help with the cultural transition? Your school should have your best interests at heart; make sure that any school you’re considering is committed to taking care of your needs.


Size is an important factor in the college-choosing process, and everyone has their own preferences. Some people find that they learn better in small classes, with the possibility of one-on-one time with their professors. Others prefer large lecture halls, where students are more or less expected to fend for themselves. Ask yourself which of these is more conducive to how you learn.

Percentage of Graduates Accepted at Top Graduate Schools

When choosing a college, you want to know that you will be receiving a top-quality education, and that you will have many options available to you after college. Even if you’re not sure at the moment whether graduate school is in your future or not, you may want to research the acceptance rate of graduates. Knowing that you will have options after graduation will help lend you peace of mind.

Social Life

Your college will be your home for the next four years (at least). You’re going to want to know what the social life is like. For example, do most students live on campus or is it a "suitcase" college where most students have to live off-campus? What do students do for fun? What’s the schools reputation? Is it a party school? Does it have the activities you are interested in?

Special Athletic or Extra-curricular Activities

If you are involved in sports, theatre, dance, art, or any number of other interests, and wish to continue these activities in college, or if you are interested in becoming involved in a new activity, you’ll want to check the availability of these activities on any college campus you might be considering. Does the school have intramural sports teams? A cappella groups? A belly dance ensemble? Wherever your interests lie, make sure that any college you apply to can satisfy those interests.

Retention and 4-Year Graduation Rate

When considering a college, you might want to research what percentage of first year students goes on to second year, and how many first-year students remain at the same school after four years. If the transfer rate at a certain college is particularly high, that might be a strong hint that the college does not meet a large number of students’ needs in some way. Additionally, you’ll want to ask what percentage of graduates earns their degrees in four years; at some schools it takes longer than others. Ask yourself if you’re willing to spend more time and money to earn your degree.


Safety is one of the most important factors to consider. Over the past few years, crime has been increasing, even on college campuses. When considering a college, look into its crime statistics and find out what steps the school is taking to ensure the safety of its students.

Personal Preferences

There are many additional variables to take into consideration, questions that may be more important to some students than others. For example, are you more interested in a co-ed or single-sex college? Would you prefer a private or public school? Religious or secular? The answer to all these questions depends entirely on the personal preferences of the student choosing the school.

Most of these questions can be answered by the Admissions Office or the International Student Office at the school you are considering. You should also ask to speak with other international students on campus to get their feedback.

This list should just get you started. There may be other issues or concerns that are a priority for you. With so many schools to choose from, you are likely to find one that meets most of your criteria. Take some time to list any other factors that are important to you. Then start doing your own research!

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