College Plan Timeline:

If you’re not quite sure what is important to you in a college, consult parents, friends, teachers, and other people who have attended college before to help you.

Make the most of your college planning resources and learn more about colleges and universities.

At this point you should have a good idea of what type of school you’re interested in – public or private, large or small. Now it’s time to investigate these types of colleges and universities more closely.

Specifics are pretty important when it comes to choosing the college that fits your needs. As you proceed with your college search, it’s important to come up with a set of criteria by which you can judge prospective schools. Let’s take a look at some important college characteristics.

Important College Characteristics

As you explore these characteristics, rank them 1-10 in terms of importance to you. This will give you a tangible evidence of what to look for when you’re looking for more information on colleges and universities.

_____ Location: Many students want to stay close to home and go to school with friends. Still others want to get as far away as possible.

_____ Reputation: Some students are intrigued by big-name schools, whether they are known for academics like the Ivy League, or athletics like Big 10 or SEC schools. (How Does A College Get Its Reputation?)

_____ Majors: Major choice is going to be crucial for almost every student who has a career path in mind. However, popular majors are offered by almost every college, whereas some majors, like engineering or pre-med, are only offered at specific schools.

_____ Cost: Among parents’ chief concerns is how much it’s going to cost. Students also often shoulder a financial burden so schools with scholarships and good financial aid are sometimes preferential.

_____ Admission Requirements: Some colleges require essays, writing samples, teacher recommendations, and multiple standardized test scores. Different types of students avoid or flock to these types of schools.

_____ Athletics: Whether you plan on participating or just want to cheer on a good team, athletics can be a big part of college life.

_____ Social Life: Think parties, student organizations, Greek life, movie theaters, the bar scene, and college town life.

_____ Size: You’ve already considered what you’re looking for in school size, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

_____ Private vs. Public: Another characteristic you’ve already considered but which remains important among a certain set of students.

_____ Religious or Single-Sex: Many students find it important to attend schools that have religious affiliation or a single-sex student body; that is, a student body that's either all male or all female.

Once you’ve decided on exactly what’s important to you, use the Campus Explorer college search tool to look for colleges that fit your criteria and to compare and contrast schools that interest you.

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Related Tools and Checklists

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High School Junior Timeline and Checklist

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