With more than 3,000 colleges across the country, the options are seemingly endless for students searching for their ideal school. But by seeking the answers to key questions, it’s easy to start narrowing down the choices.
First of all, students who know what major they want to pursue should limit their college list to schools with a strong program in their desired field. College Board’s “Book of Majors” is a great resource for securing this information. For example, students seeking a major in Bioengineering/biomedical engineering would find a bachelors degree program available at four New Jersey schools: College of New Jersey, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rutgers, and Stevens Institute of Technology.
Next, students should ask about the retention rate and graduation rate at each college or university under consideration. The retention rate, which is the percent of freshmen who return for their sophomore year, can be found in “Best Colleges” by U.S. News & World Report. So, too, can the graduation rate. However the guide lists the percent of students who graduate within six years. Many students, and their parents, budget for a four year college experience.
When touring college campuses, students are eager to picture themselves living and socializing in the college dorms. But students often don’t realize that many colleges do not guarantee college housing for all of their undergraduate years. Often housing is only assured for the first two years, and then is offered based on a lottery system.
Food is also a key aspect of college life, so while touring campuses students should be sure to try out the culinary offerings in the cafeterias and food courts. Anyone with food preferences or allergies – vegan, vegetarian, lactose intolerance, peanut allergies -- should be particularly inquisitive about the suitability of food options.
Of course, students attend college with the expectation of being prepared for a rewarding career. But they should ask questions, ahead of time, to determine the likelihood of getting the job of their dreams upon graduation. Colleges collect information on the percent of their students who secure employment in their field within six months of graduation. Colleges can also let students know which employers recruit on campus.
In order to make a wise college choice, students and parents should be sure to get all of their questions answered before packing up and heading off to campus.
Susan Alaimo is the founder of SAT Smart. For the past 25 years, SAT Smart’s Ivy League educated tutors have prepared students for the PSAT, SAT, ACT, Subject Tests, AP courses, and all high school subjects. Visit www.SATsmart.com or call 908-369-5362.