General Collegiate Information

The following information is provided to assist you in selecting a college or university that is right for you. Your goal is to select a college or university that provides a challenging academic program while meeting other important selection criteria such as cost of attendance, career services, and campus environment.

Advice from National Scholars: What to look for when selecting a college.

With nearly 5,000 public and private colleges and universities in the nation, selecting the right college for you may seem daunting. However, while choosing a college is an important and sometimes difficult decision, if you plan now and take it step by step, you will find the college that is right for you.

Of course there are many factors to consider when looking at colleges and universities. When the Horatio Alger National Scholars were asked how they selected the institutions they applied to, they indicated the academic reputation of the college, the amount of financial aid they were offered, the cost of attendance, and job opportunities after graduation.

    Academic Reputation
    How do you know whether the college has a good reputation? To find out, talk to current students, staff, faculty, and alumni. Read materials the college provides. Colleges usually make their catalogs available on the Internet. Review publications that rank or describe academic programs; these include  the College Handbook (College Board College Handbook), Four-Year Colleges (Peterson’s Four-Year Colleges), and US News & World Report. Your school or local public library should be able to provide these and other sources of information.

    Cost of Attendance
    College is an investment and can be very expensive. However, many students qualify for financial aid to cover the difference between what a college costs and what they can afford to pay. Factors you may want to consider regarding college costs include:

    • Two-year vs. four-year colleges: Some students opt to begin their education at two-year or community colleges. This allows for significant savings yet prepares the students for completing their undergraduate degrees at four-year colleges.

    • What’s included: When comparing college costs, you will want to consider all costs, including tuition, room and board, books, supplies, fees and charges, and transportation. As soon as you start considering specific colleges, visit their websites to review a breakdown of the costs of attendance. Check out the College Board Compare Colleges website at https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/compare-colleges.

    Job Opportunities
    Students are concerned about landing jobs in their chosen careers upon graduation. You may want to consider the following questions: What role does the college play? Does the college invite employers to campus to interview seniors? What other employment assistance does the college offer to graduating seniors? Are internships or co-ops available, and will students earn college credit, be paid, or both?

    Remember to contact the placement office at the college. (Sometimes it is called the career center or job placement office.) Ask what services the office provides for students, such as career counseling, résumé and cover-letter writing assistance, lists of job openings, and practice interviews.

    Other Considerations
    Other factors to consider in selecting a college include campus environment, a college’s religious affiliation, student population, college location (rural, urban, suburban, and distance from home), social life, and campus activities.

Below are links to other sites containing general information on selecting colleges, seeking financial aid, transferring from one college to another, standardized testing, career choices, etc.