5 things to consider when choosing a college
Choosing a college can be a very exciting, scary and overwhelming process--you’re deciding where you want to spend the next four years of your academic career. You're likely a little stressed, but don't worry too much. There's a school out there that will meet all of your needs and expectations. Here are some characteristics to look out for to determine if you're choosing the right college.
1. Offers major(s)/minor(s) you’re interested in
You're going to college first and foremost to further your education, so it’s important to pick a school where you feel you’ll succeed academically. The best way to do this is to research the degree programs offered.
Even if you don’t have a set idea of what you want to study, make sure the college or university offers a wide variety of majors and minors for when the time to declare comes.
Class sizes are also an important academic characteristic to consider. Some students thrive well in large lecture classes, while other students prefer smaller classes. If you're not sure which academic setting is a better fit for you, think about how you prefer to learn. Are you more a hands-on learner or one who prefers to sit back and absorb?
If you're concerned about the success of a college's students look on their website or ask an admissions advisor about the graduation rate. If the majority of students graduate (and do it on time), that's a good sign.
2. Affordable for you and your family
Cost is another important factor to consider. You want to make sure that the school you choose is affordable, offers a reasonable financial aid package and won’t tack on a ton of student debt in the future.
Many private colleges have a bigger price tag than public colleges, but don't let that deter you from looking at a private school you're interested in. At schools like Augustana the sticker price is just a starting point, and very few students actually pay that much.
99% of Augustana College students receive some sort of financial aid. The college is also unique in that they offer “Augie Choice,” a program that grants every student $2,000 to help support an approved internship, research project, or study abroad.
Make sure you do some research and ask questions about the school’s financial aid services, as well as potential scholarships to apply for.
The financial aid office provides prospective students with a ton of information regarding how to apply for aid, the different types of scholarships and grants offered, as well as other resources and contact information.
3. Location. Location. Location.
Going away to college is often the first time students experience a new sense of independence and responsibility, and different students want to experience that in different ways. Some students dream of going to a school far away from their family and hometown after high school. While others prefer to be closer to home.
When considering a college ask yourself how comfortable you are with the distance from home. Are you able to drive to and from your hometown, or would you have to fly each time you want to go back home?
Although you're at college first and foremost to further your academic career, it doesn’t hurt to have a little bit of fun during your free time! The surrounding environment of the college will influence your overall experience as well.
Make sure that the town or surrounding cities offer places you can see yourself hanging out at, nearby hiking or nature trails (if you’re an outdoorsy person), or other activities you would like to participate in.
Here is a link to learn more about Augustana College’s location, and what the Quad Cities area can offer students!
4. Ways to be involved on campus
Of course, you're at college to further your academic career. However, there are other opportunities to get involved in as well.
Make sure that the schools you're considering offer extracurriculars that interest you and that you might want to get involved in. This could be intramural sports teams, Greek life, instrumental ensembles, service groups, etc.
The size and personality of the student body will play a big role in finding your niche, so ask about current students while going through the admissions process.
Augustana College offers hundreds of student groups and organizations, covering a wide variety of interests. If a student has an interest that isn’t already covered by a group, there’s always room to start a new organization!
5. You can imagine yourself on campus for the next four years
Yes, this one may sound a bit cliche. But, the college you choose will be your home for the next four years. When you're on campus or imagining your future at a college, it should just fee "right". This is a good sign that you’ll be happy and thriving on campus, both socially and academically.
When you’re visiting a campus in person, take time to just walk around. Walk through the quad(s), go into the academic buildings, check out a dorm, and explore student hubs.
Through the entire experience, take mental notes of how you feel. If you feel comfortable and know you can be yourself, the college just might be the right fit for you.
During this time, many colleges, including Augustana, are not offering in-person visits. For more information about the college, check out our admissions page to take your own virtual tour, as well as find out more information about the school.
Patti graduated from Augustana in 2020; she was a double major in communication studies and French, with a minor in entertainment and media studies. She is originally from Northbrook, Ill., but her family relocated to Henderson, Nev. Outside of academics, Patti was a member of the Vikings varsity swim team, director of PR and marketing for HerCampus, and a member of Delta Chi Theta sorority.