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Top 10 Factors to Consider in Your College Search

Ten Factors to Consider in Your College Search

High School juniors should be picking up their college search and seniors should be putting it into high gear. What should you be looking for? Important factors in your search follow for those applying to colleges.

Factors in Your College Search

1. Liberal Arts College or Research University: Do you want a liberal arts institution with a teaching mission or a research university which may offer more majors and course options? US News and World Report’s annual “Best Colleges” issue offers this breakdown. It is important, however, to assess individual institutions since a growing number of research universities have honors colleges where teaching is a priority.

2. Region and Climate: This is worthy of attention, but keep in mind that some of the best institutions are in colder climates. You are applying to school for an education, not a locale for a spring vacation.

3. Type of Environment: Urban, small town, or rural.

4. Academic Profile of Freshman Class: Are their GPA’s and standardized test scores comparable to yours?

5. Composition of Student Body: Are you comfortable with the gender, geographic, and ethnic diversity of the school?

6. Attrition and Four Year Graduation Rates: Stronger institutions will retain a high percentage of their student body beyond the freshman year, and the vast majority of their students will finish in four years. This important statistic is chronicled in US News and World Report’s “Best Colleges” issue and provides insights into institutional support services and the quality of the student body.

7. Class Sizes in Your Possible Areas of Study: It is important that you go beyond institutional averages in class size since there may be departmental variations. Contact the departments of possible majors as you narrow down your search. Ask about class size in required courses.

8. Institutional Financial Aid Options

9. The Types of Clubs and Extra-Curricular Activities are Available on Campus

10. Post Graduation Placements in Professional/Graduate Schools and Jobs: Make an inquiry with the Career Counseling and Placement Office about the percentage of students who enter quality higher degree programs and jobs. It is legitimate to ask about the types of jobs and salaries of graduates.


It is in your interest to go well beyond a virtual college search and to visit campuses where you can talk to students, staff, and preferably professors in your possible majors. Arrange for class-room visits and drop by the cafeteria and campus hangouts to get a feel for the institution. Set up interviews where they are recommended. Top Test Prep offers tutoring and test preparations with admissions experts who can assist you in gaining admission to your top schools.

David Dickson is an admissions counselor with Top Test Prep; for more information on Top Test Prep, call (800) 501-Prep today.

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