How to pick the right college


Nicholas Scoggins

A collection of college information pamphlets meant for high school students.

Nicholas Scoggins, Staff Reporter

College offers millions of Americans the opportunity to further their education, meet new people  and ultimately make the transition from child to adult. However, choosing a college can be a very daunting task. With approximately 5,300 colleges in the United States, finding the right choice can lead to long hours of grief. Ultimately, deciding on the best school is going to come down to three main factors: major, affordability and networking.


The first issue is what major you wish to study while in college. This is very important as colleges, even while offering a diverse array of courses, will typically focus much of their effort in one or a couple of academic areas.  For example, A&M has really good classes for engineering majors, UT has good classes for liberal arts majors and Baylor has good classes for people wishing to pursue law or medicine. You should ultimately wish to go to a school that will have good classes in your major. This not only applies to majors, but also to post-college planning.  Do you wish to join the armed forces? There are not only the five service academies (West Point, Naval, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine), but also the six senior military colleges (Texas A&M, The Citadel, Virginia Military Institute, Virginia Tech and the University of North Georgia) that offer both excellent military training and excellent academics.  Do you wish to work in the maritime field?  There are dedicated maritime schools that offer both majors such as oceanography while also having assets such as working ships for learning at sea. You should also look at what you can do at your college to further the study of your major. This can include study abroad opportunities, students groups on campus as well as tools such as laboratories if you are a STEM major.


The second issue is affordability. College prices have soared to ludicrous levels in recent years and having to spend years paying off student debt can make you feel that your education wasn’t all that worth it. Thus, determining the affordability of the colleges you wish to attend is a very important step in finding the right colleges. Prices will almost always be much higher if you choose to attend either a private school or an out-of-state public institution, however paying that extra amount might be worth it.  For example, while far more expensive on average, private colleges often have very small teacher-to-student ratios and have both excellent academics and good opportunities for networking and job hunting. You don’t want to pay too much to the point that you bankrupt yourself, but you also don’t want to go so cheap that you don’t get the education that is right for you.


The third issue is networking/getting a job. Opportunities for networking allows for you to make connections with other students which can come in very handy when you are looking for a job after college. This is why Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Yale are so highly regarded, as their alumni have excellent connections which allows them to get high-paying jobs. Another part of this factor to consider is whether your school has good connections to either major companies or government agencies. If so, that means you can pursue internships. Internships allow you to both gain valuable experience in an actual work environment that will help you later on as well as make you stand out amongst the crowd when you actually apply for a job. Schools with good connections will often have dedicated hiring events for seniors where representatives of major companies and government agencies will come to campus to interview students who may be interested in working for them. A college having these connections makes it far easier to get at least a decent job after college and avoid the dreaded underemployment crisis that has gripped much of America’s population.


Overall those are my tips on how to pick the best college for you, keep in mind that there are obviously many other factors that come into play, but these are certainly things both I and others have experienced when picking out colleges.