Choosing A College

Financial Choosing A College

Find The Best College For You

The trick to college selection is finding the best college for you. It is helpful to compare the college selection process to a funnel. When you first start the process, you are at the large end of the funnel. You are not quite sure what career you want to pursue or what college you want to attend. This is not unusual; most first-year students are undecided. So relax and let's look at some ways to help you get to the narrow end of the funnel. Ideally, you should start the process in the winter of your junior year of high school. Starting early gives you more time to explore your options and helps minimize the stress.

When deciding what colleges to apply to, you should try listing qualities that are important to you. You may be surprised about what you learn when you examine yourself closely. The following are topics students and families often consider when developing a college plan. 


Generally, you should not eliminate colleges based on cost alone. Sometimes, the amount of financial aid that is offered will make even the most expensive college affordable. Furthermore, with AAA Student Lending, families can get approved for a loan which provides peace of mind in knowing what schools you will be able to afford when searching for colleges.

Note that although financial aid and loans may help defray the cost of college, it is always a good idea to apply to at least one school that is reasonably affordable for your family.

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How selective is the college to which you are applying? Look into the typical characteristics of the current student body and the school's acceptance rate over the past few years. As more and more students apply for college, admission offices are becoming increasingly more selective. Admission policies range from open admission, where students are accepted on a first-come, first served basis, while others are highly selective and accept only a small percentage of students who apply each year.

Keep in mind the following factors that a school may consider when selecting its students. Note that each factor may have a different weight at each school to which you apply:

  • Grades / GPA
  • Class Rank
  • Admission Test Scores
  • Recommendations
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Athletics
  • Talents & Skills
  • Desired Major
  • Essays
  • Interviews
  • Ethnicity
  • Your Location

Some schools consider your financial need in the application process if they feel they will not have enough aid available to serve all students. Schools that do not consider your financial need are said to have need-blind admission.

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Career / Major

Choosing a career or major can be difficult. If you think that you want to be an engineer, a writer or a fashion designer, the search process may be a little easier because you can search for schools that offer your major. If you are undecided about your future, you need to look for schools that offer you the most flexibility. Liberal Arts Colleges, for example, allow you to experience classes from different areas of study. Exploring these options will help you discover an area of interest. Begin researching different careers. For instance, if you like to write, try to find out what careers require good writers.

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Some students thrive in large, fast paced environments, while others prefer small classes and more personalized attention. The student-teacher ratio is a good indicator of class size. The total number of students can give you an idea of the size of the college. Use the following guideline to help with your decision:

  • Small - Less than 2,000 students
  • Medium - More than 2,000 but less than 10,000 students
  • Large - More than 10,000


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Some students feel more comfortable staying close to home while others want to experience college in a new and distant place. Think about whether you will be happier in an urban, suburban or rural location. Consider whether you would be better served, based on your major, in a city or in the country. For example, an architecture major might want to attend a college that can provide the opportunity to experience various types of architecture. In this case, a city school might be a better choice. The same might apply to a music performance major. A city or suburban area will provide opportunity to experience symphonies and other music events.

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Student Population and Diversity

Certain colleges are more diverse than others. Are you looking to attend a school where your background is similar to that of other students or would you prefer an environment with a broader range of students across many races, religions, countries, social classes and interests? Would you rather attend an all female college or enroll at a co-ed university? These are important questions to consider when determining where you would like to apply.

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Extracurricular Activities

Would you like to join a club, organization or intramural athletics program at school? If it is important to you for your school to have a theatre program, orchestra, mock trial program or other extracurricular activity, then research schools that offer these activities.

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Major Athletics

The opportunity for most students to participate in Division I or Division II intercollegiate athletics is relatively slim. You need to do an honest self-assessment of your athletic skills. Many college coaches will recruit athletes they believe to be the best fit for their team. If you feel strongly about your talent and you have not been contacted by a coach, reach out to them directly and inquire about tryouts.

Most colleges offer various intramural programs and Division III athletic programs are often less competitive than Division I and Division II sports. Check with the college admission or athletic office to get an idea of what is offered.

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