Students decide to attend colleges for a number of reasons. Maybe a group of high school friends all want to go to the same school. Perhaps location is the determining factor: either wanting to be closer or farther away from home. With students applying to more schools that ever before, chances are good that a lot of college-bound seniors will get acceptances from a handful of colleges with different offerings, in different locations.
A recent report by the National Student Clearinghouse indicates that more students than ever before are graduating with degrees after transferring from other four-year colleges (13%). The reason for this trend is not exactly clear – it may take more time to determine exactly what is causing this trend of student mobility. But certainly determining factors could be our notions of what happiness is, as well as the belief that Americans are predisposed to the idea of relocation, resettlement, and the ability to turn things around with the swiftness of a coin flip.
But whatever the reasons may be, it certainly begs the question: why are seemingly proficient students jumping ship in the middle of their college careers? Furthermore, if students are possibly leaving because they are unhappy with their original college choices, how can more students in the future avoid this trend?
Choosing a College
Many people have a deep pride and admiration for the colleges or universities they attended. College athletics has certainly helped in this regard, as has the stepped-up efforts by university administrators to involve and retain alumni loyalty. But many college graduates, when asked, would also probably say, if the clock could be rewound, they might choose a different school. And this is normal as attitudes and preferences change with age.
So how can high school seniors choose the best colleges for them? What factors will help all college students be as satisfied as possible?
- Do you have your heart set on a certain field of study?
Many students enter college without knowing what they will study or major in, and there is certainly nothing wrong with this. But for those high school seniors that have their hearts set on studying in a certain field, it would be well-worth the effort to investigate which schools have the strongest programs, and what faculty might be teaching (not just researching) at these schools.
- Is cost a determining factor?
Students are more aware than ever that tuition is spiking within a job market that is stagnant. If financial aid or funding is a major concern (or if the idea of paying off student loan debt for years and years and years is unsettling), students should consider a handful of schools that offer different financial options. While tuitions are high, there are still a number of programs out there to help students afford college if they are willing to look for them.
- Do you want to fold into the mix, or are you looking to get to know your professors by name?
Large public universities are well-regarded for a number of reasons (impressive research programs, the number of majors offered, the endless amount of social programs and outlets), but large public universities do not offer the kind of personal attention that others might. If a student is looking for an overall personal approach, it would be good to consider liberal arts colleges, as well as schools outside the major sports conferences. That being said, if you know what department you might like to study in, large public universities might not be as overwhelming s they seem. Departments at large universities (30,000 or more) can greatly vary in size.
- How much purchasing power does a reputation hold?
Reputations mean a lot in society, but are reputations worth breaking the bank for? Duke is a great institution and known worldwide for its academics, but is that reputation going to help push you over the edge in the job market when you graduate? That is a question students will need to ask themselves. It might be a good idea for students to look at job placement statistics, graduation rates, and what degrees build up a school’s reputation. It is a given that some names are more impressive than others (Harvard, Yale, Princeton), but some lesser known schools have specific programs or fields of study that rival those, or at the very least are seen as just as desirable in the job market.
- Will you be seeking a graduate degree later?
In the exact same way that parents might place their children in high schools known for helping students get admitted to certain colleges, high school seniors should consider whether they already have a desire to seek a graduate degree, and if the colleges they are looking at can help them get into graduate school.
- Would you rather live in Manhattan, New York, or Manhattan, Kansas?
It may seem obvious that the student bodies at NYU and Kansas State are a little bit different. But why are they different? On the academic end, social end, and cultural end there are a myriad of differences, and this has a lot to do with physical location. Students should never underestimate the significance that location can place on perspective, inclination and experience. But students also shouldn’t forget to add the cost of living when looking at the overall cost of an education.
As with any major life decision, picking which school to attend can be stressful and will undoubtedly cause second-guessing at some point. But if students are willing to be honest with themselves, can try (as hard as it might be) to consider the future, and are in the end practical, more students will find a level of satisfaction with their choices.