How does one choose between colleges?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by TSE, Jan 27, 2011.

  1. TSE macrumors 68030

    Jun 25, 2007
    St. Paul, Minnesota
    That is the dilemma I am going through... how does one exactly choose which university/college is best for them if they offer the same degree?
  2. -aggie- macrumors P6


    Jun 19, 2009
    Where bunnies are welcome.
    Back in the old days when there wasn’t the internet, we used the library to read books that compare the colleges (I forget the name of the book). I’m sure there is something on the internet that does the same thing. Anyway, after I did that, I then looked at cost, campus life, location, etc.

    So, here you go:
  3. Highcroft macrumors regular

    Sep 9, 2007
    Visit each and see which campus you like better.
  4. .JahJahwarrior. macrumors 6502

    Jan 1, 2007
    For me, it was a mixture of scholarship/cost of the college, and how I liked the campus.

    My undergraduate school offered me a decent scholarship, and I loved the campus: full of open spaces with fields and such, but near a major city. A few hours from home, not too close or too far. I chose it over the college in my hometown (too close to home) and another college in state (campus looked run down), yet another college in state (run down campus and crowded, and in downtown of a major city), and an out of state school (way too expensive and far from home)

    Graduate school was chosen partly because the girl I was dating at the time decided to go there. Once I visited while she was still choosing, I fell in love with the campus. Beautiful, full of green spaces just like undergrad. A bit further from home. They would have been $20k more than continuing in grad school at my undergraduate university, but I told the recruiter I'd need a $20k scholarship to make it happen, and a few days later I was informed I'd been given the I decided to go there. Funny thing is, shortly after that, I broke up with that girl. Still see her on campus sometimes and it's a bit awkward.

    Moral of that story: don't go to uni just because of a girl, or you'll be unhappy. I love the campus, so I'm still happy here even with that soured relationship.

    I gotta remember this to tell my kids in 20+ years...
  5. renewed macrumors 68040


    Mar 24, 2009
    Bemalte Blumen duften nicht.
    Location, cost, extracurricular, amenities, cost, cost, cost
  6. dmr727 macrumors G3


    Dec 29, 2007
    Southern California
    Definitely do this. One size doesn't fit all when it comes to colleges. It all boils down to what kinds of things are important to you. Check the schools out in person and go wherever felt the most 'right'. You'll know it when you see it.
  7. benzslrpee macrumors 6502


    Jan 1, 2007
    check to see which companies recruit for the degree you're wanting to do. no use wasting 4 years of your life if your school's business program (for example) attracts 90% agriculture/industrial companies and you're wanting to work for in technology.
  8. dukebound85 macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
    campus visits, location, cost, program reputation were priorities for me
  9. NickZac macrumors 68000


    Dec 11, 2010
    What are you more interested in (be honest)

    -Partying/having a good time
    -Developing credentials/making a name

    My University is VERY competitive, and schools like that tend to have less intense social life because well, people are busy working. Some colleges are characterized by partying, but mine was not and is not. As an undergrad, I chose to go their for that reason as I wasn't sure if I could resist the temptation. Next thing I know, I was busting my ass as an undergraduate and after my freshman year, I wasn't able to do much more than go out once or twice on the weekends. Graduate and then post-graduate got even more intense and with each advancement, my research has become more and more complex. You won't want to go that far into education unless you actually enjoy it...most of my friends were sick of school after their undergrad degrees and me, well I felt 'empty' after my BA and felt like much of what I was working on just ceased to exist. I went back for more for this reason as it made me very depressed and detached. To be honest, I love what I do, I am very passionate about it, I am very good at it, and it makes me feel important as I am helping people other than myself. So in the end, I guess the school work I labored over as opposed to beer paid off as I am where I want to be and I have a lot of job flexibility given my previous education/independent studies/research/public policy-level experience. I went into college not even sure about my own level of basic self-restraint and well, a decade later I find myself close to self-rationalization and so I would describe my education experience as the defining factor in my life that makes me who I am.

    Are you a high grade student? Do you want to go past a BA/BS?

    If you are about academics, deciding where to go should not be taken lightly.
  10. Abyssgh0st macrumors 68000


    Jan 12, 2009
    Norman, OK
    For me on a superficial level it was campus visits. For most everyone I know when they go on the 'right' campus it just feels meant to be. Once you narrow it down to 1-3 favorites from there, compares things such as:

    1. Which one has the best program for what you want to do? (Try and researching online, in books, or even meet with alumni who graduated with the degree you're looking for. Get a class list of your required classes for your major and read up on how the tenured professors are).
    2. How far is it from home? (If this is a priority).
    3. Which one is most cost effective?
    4. Sports or extracurricular if they're big for you.
    5. What's the lady scene like, really?

    And many more things, but I believe that if you like how it looks and it is somewhat within your means, go for it and research more about it.
  11. einmusiker macrumors 68030


    Apr 26, 2010
    Location: Location:

    cost should not be such a huge factor, if it is work for a few years before going. You need to go to a school that is a good fit for you. What do you plan to study? what schools excel at your course of study? take it from there and find what school is the best FIT
  12. Gregg2 macrumors 603

    May 22, 2008
    Milwaukee, WI
    Lots of good advice here. One more thing to consider is a support network. Assuming you have one now, look for a similar one at the schools you visit. If you don't have one, then ask about Freshman orientation. Some schools offer freshman interest group housing that puts people with similar interests/majors together. This gives you an instant social network and study group.
  13. OutThere macrumors 603


    Dec 19, 2002
    I visited the college I wound up choosing on a beautiful 70° day at the end of April. People were throwing frisbees on the quads, speakers were wafting music out of dorm room windows, guys were hanging out on fraternity porches, a couple of classes were being held outside and my tour guide was a fox (I actually wound up dating her briefly 3 years later haha). All of the schools I'd been accepted to were pretty similar as far as having a good academic reputation, and I knew I wanted a small liberal arts college. One phenomenal visit made the decision very easy, I knew before we even got in the car to go home. Visit the schools you like in the springtime right before your deposit is due, you'll know.
  14. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Don't forget the extra-culliculars, as well. And I don't mean the parties and the dating, exclusively. It's in the clubs/organizations/student politics where you can make some of your best friends. You may get a job based on marks/degrees, but often you will find out about opportunities from friends.

    Also, when an employer is looking at a stack of CVs, all from people with a B~ from a good school, what will start tipping the scale in your favour is if you also can show a history getting things done - non-academic stuff. Especially if you were involved in a college org that HR person has fond memories of. (The downside is that one of the orgs you were involved in was the one hazed the HR person ...)

    Or do what my nephew did. He found a small liberal arts college that had, 2 years previously, switched from being an all-girls school to being co-ed. I think the number was about 780 students - less than 20 were fellows. My nephew is definitely the smartest one in our whole family.
  15. dmr727 macrumors G3


    Dec 29, 2007
    Southern California
    I don't see these as being mutually exclusive. You don't have to party all the time to have a great college experience, and you don't have to be a social hermit to have a great academic one either. I think balance is key - not all education that goes on in college is purely academic.

    People here are talking about fit, and I agree. I'd argue that if the school doesn't fit, the academics are largely irrelevant.
  16. NickZac macrumors 68000


    Dec 11, 2010
    I disagree although social growth does occur. College is not a place with the high objective of having fun if you are career driven; college is vocational training. Some people go to college more for the social aspect; and that is fine, but differentiating is critical as certain colleges have different 'cultures' and student life. Much of higher education is competitive...if you do better than your peers, you will open doors that they will not have. If I went to college to have fun, I would not have any of my degrees. It is easy to get 'caught up' having too good a time for anyone. Yes, you can have a good time almost anywhere, but in academic-heavy schools, you do not have nearly as much of a social life as you can at other places. The people who say 'I don't need to study/do anything' often do get Bachelor's degrees, but they usually aren't getting D. Phils and/or MD's. If you are seriously career driven, it is a commitment and it is hard work. You get out what you put in. An undergraduate who does independent studies/relevant internships/outside research is going to have a hell of a much better transcript/resume than one who does not.
  17. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    No it's not. Vocational training certifies you for a particular trade. A college education gets you a degree. They are not the same thing.

    That's not necessarily true either.
  18. northy124 macrumors 68020


    Nov 18, 2007
    Go by Course subject, then Prestige/Party life.

    If you want a good cheap (free) university look towards Scandinavia ;) just if you want to go this year you missed deadlines.
  19. TSE thread starter macrumors 68030

    Jun 25, 2007
    St. Paul, Minnesota
    Thanks for the advice guys - I am just wondering something.

    How do I know which program is the most prominent/widely respected? For instance, I'm trying to decide between three colleges, all with the same Industrial Design major.
  20. CalBoy macrumors 604


    May 21, 2007
    Typically there are sub-rankings for colleges and universities based on each individual program. However, generally speaking a prestigious university will lift all of its departments. It's important to keep in mind though that these rankings are all relative. Some of them will place a heavy emphasis on the reputation of the faculty, while others will place heavy emphasis on employment after graduation, etc. Here are the US News rankings for graduate industrial design. I realize that it isn't precisely what you're looking for, but I hope it sets you off in the path towards discovering what you're looking for.

    If you want some personal advice, I would avoid stressing about the rankings if they don't have much bearing on you being able to find a job after graduation. Remember that you're still very young and chances are very high that you'll change your mind. You should look for a school that offers a diverse array of choices and does them all well or at least respectably. You should create a rubric for choosing schools and assign weights to each category depending on how important that category is to you.

    For me, for example, being near a major city is pretty important (ideally I'd be in one), as is going to a good school with a generally good reputation. I would probably give each of these a weight of 25%. I would probably weight cost at around 35% (remember, if you have to take out loans, you have to pay them back), and I would probably weigh intangible factors like student attitude, quality of life (read: weather, topography, and commuting), and other personal factors the remaining 15%. This way, even if one campus is fantastic in one sense (say it is in my favorite city), that one factor won't be able to overcome the remaining factors. This will save you from yourself when it comes time to make a decision because we are often times biased by things that in the long term will have minimal impact on our daily lives (for example, seeing the guys playing frisbee in the quad might seem nice when you visit, but you may soon realize that you either hate frisbee or that you don't have the time for it).
  21. NickZac macrumors 68000


    Dec 11, 2010
    Either my post was deleted or it did not go through and I am not willing to type it again as I hate having relevant posts deleted. So this is all I will say:

    1) Find a school that offers programs you like
    2) Find out funding options
    3) Research professors
    4) Work your ass off
    5) Get involved in student will meet a lot of people in something like student government
    6) Do work before play
    7) Take advantage of internships
  22. benhollberg macrumors 68020


    Mar 8, 2010
    Pick a couple you interested in. Then find out which one costs you less money, try to get a school to give you a scholarship.
  23. einmusiker macrumors 68030


    Apr 26, 2010
    Location: Location:
    for undergrad, rankings and such aren't as important as school rep. For instance, someone looking to get into the medical profession might be better served studying biology at a small selective liberal arts college in your area (Macalester is great) and then go to UW Madison for med school. The SLAC school will give them better personal attention from the actual professors rather than having been taught by grad assistants etc.
  24. rhsgolfer33, Feb 6, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2011

    rhsgolfer33 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 6, 2006
    Cost should definitely be a big factor - the last thing we should be encouraging young people to do is take on $80,000 in student loan debt to attend a school that is a good "fit" when they'll barely make enough money to pay their student loans after graduation. My feeling is that encouraging young people to take on large amounts of debt in pursuit of a "college experience" and "fit" sets those students up for a lot of financial failure in the future.

    Networking is extremely important for your career. Many of the connections I've made and bonds I've formed with people who will likely be able to help me in my career (and I likewise for them) have been formed over more than a few beers at a restaurant or college party. I'm a pretty career driven guy, but to be honest, after you lineup your first job, most employers could give a rats ass about your grades.

    I don't find that to be true. I have more of a social life at my top ranked graduate school than I ever did at my less academically recognized undergrad. My graduate program is significantly more intensive and difficult than my undergraduate program as well. A healthy social life and good grades certainly aren't mutually exclusive.

    Absolutely agree, but college isn't all about going to class and getting a 4.0. It is an experience that should have a balance of making sure you do well in your classes and engaging in a moderate social life. If I could go back and do undergrad again, I would worry a hell of a lot less about my grades, because they really aren't that important - I would have ended up at the same grad school and same job with a 3.7 GPA as I did with my 3.94 GPA. In grad school I've taken the approach that it is more about learning than about getting all A's - I've learned more and had a hell of of a lot more fun doing it.

    As for how you should choose a school - visit campus and see where you feel the most comfortable. You're going to be living there for four years, you'd better like the city and the campus. Talk to as many students as you can and see what they say about the school. See how involved career services is in helping you find a job - let's not forget that, unless your parents are paying for your education, you're probably going to be paying loans when you graduate; a good career services would be helpful in helping you find a job to make those payments. Look at the cost and scholarships available - in general, I personally wouldn't recommend getting into severe debt, especially for most bachelor's degrees.

    Finally, and perhaps most importantly, check out the caliber of ladies on campus. Having attended all private schools in Southern California, I'm pretty used to having a lot of "hotties" on campus - it is definitely a plus. ;)
  25. Gator24765 macrumors 6502a


    Nov 13, 2009
    Cost is one of the biggest things. Second, its what you wanna do and if they offer a good program.

    In my case I chose my school on where I got recruited for sports so it was a different situation.

    My advice is pick somewhere you will enjoy...

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