NOTE: This quiz is in no way recommending specific colleges or universities (SoFi doesn’t endorse nor are we affiliated with any college or university), but rather the type of college or university that might work with your personality and goals. Above all, this is meant to be a fun tool and a very, very preliminary source of information to supplement your decision-making.
Deciding which college is right for you can be a big decision, and it makes sense to pick one where the college programs, atmosphere, extracurricular activities, and more dovetail with your personality, interests, desired major, and so forth. In this post, we’ll offer some guidance, along with a quiz that might help you to answer this question: Where Should I Go to College?
Table of Contents
Brainstorming a Broad List
According to the National Center for Education Statistics , there are currently 4,298 degree-granting postsecondary institutions, ranging anywhere from large public universities to more intimate liberal arts colleges, with a wide range of choices in between.
As a first step, it may make sense to decide which of these, in general, sound most appealing:
• four-year college or a two-year/vocational option
• public school or a private college
• nonprofit college or a for-profit one
• large university or liberal arts college
• bustling city or a quiet rural environment
You can use how you feel about each of these to create a list of potential options to explore further, and you can use resources such as EducationCorner.com to look at options. That site, for example, allows you to browse colleges by state, or majors offered; it includes more than 7,000 choices of “4-year colleges and universities, 2-year community colleges, technical colleges, vocational schools and higher education institutions.”
So, if you know what majors interest you, you can research which colleges might be best. Or, if you know you want to stay in your own state (or know that you don’t!), this can also help to guide you in making your broad list of possibilities. Also, it can’t hurt to ask your school counselor for recommendations. Where have friends and family members gone to college? What are/were their experiences like?
How important are, say, sports for you? This could mean you hope to play sports for a college, or participate in intramural ones. Or, it could mean that you want to attend a college where you can enjoy sports events as part of campus camaraderie.
What hobbies do you hope to continue to pursue? You might, as just one example, want to obtain an engineering degree at a school that will provide opportunities for you to play your violin in an orchestra.
How important is diversity to you? Small class size? For additional help, we’ve created a quiz that allows you to make a series of high-level choices about what type of college might be best for you:
Prioritizing Your Options
Using insights gleaned from making your big list and (maybe) from taking our “What College Should I Go To?” quiz, you may get a better idea of how to prioritize your list. When you do so, you could also consider including choices from each of these three categories; it can make sense to apply to a couple each of:
• match (or target) schools, ones where your academic qualifications meet what the school has been accepting as an average freshman, or perhaps slightly exceed them
• reach schools, ones where your academic qualifications are below what the school typically requires for average freshmen; perhaps your leadership skills or extracurriculars will make up the difference and you’ll get accepted
• safety schools, where you can be fairly confident (or, in some cases, certain) of acceptance
Public Universities vs Private Colleges
Public colleges and universities, in general, have been founded by state governments with the goal being to provide people who lived there with a college education. This began as early as the 1800s and, even today, state governments pay a significant amount of the operational costs of public universities. They also appoint boards for oversight purposes.
Because public funds are used to subsidize education at a public university, up-front tuition prices are typically lower than at private colleges.
Contrast this to private colleges, which rely significantly upon private contributions and student tuition to operate. This means that, in general, up-front tuition prices are higher.
Public universities tend to be bigger in size and scope, offering more degrees than a private college. Private colleges, meanwhile, typically offer fewer choices in majors and may have a focus on specific academic programs.
Class sizes are often larger in public universities, with private colleges typically limiting theirs; this can give students at private college easier access to their professors. As one more consideration, a public university often has more students from the state where it’s located, which can give private colleges more diversity, geographically speaking.
Liberal Arts Colleges
Liberal arts colleges typically focus more on overall intellectual opportunities and growth, with professors wanting to facilitate each student’s ability to know how to learn, as opposed to many degree offerings (public universities) or fewer, perhaps more focused academic programs (private universities).
So, students at these schools typically study a broad scope of subjects, rather than a targeted discipline. A liberal arts college often offers programs of study that don’t require declaring a major. Typically, a liberal arts college has smaller class sizes, too.
As you decide which colleges to apply for, you’ll also take into consideration how you can finance your education. What mix of federal student loans, scholarships, grants, or private student loans would you use to finance your dream college? What are the pros and cons of each source of funding?
Want to learn more about scholarships, grants, and student loans? Check out SoFi’s Financial Aid 101 series to find funding options for your college education.
By taking each of these factors into consideration, you can then strategically apply—and then watch for letters from these colleges in the mail!
Private Student Loans at SoFi
In the interests of complete transparency, we believe that you should investigate federal loan options before applying for private student loans.
If you decide to include private student loans in your college funding mix, SoFi offers private loans that help students pay for their education in a fee-free way. You can find your rate in just two minutes in a way that won’t affect your credit score.
Benefits of choosing SoFi include:
• We make it easy to apply entirely online.
• You can add a cosigner to your application in just minutes.
• When we say no fees, we mean no no origination fees, no late fees, no insufficient fund fees. No fees, no fuss.
• There are multiple flexible repayment options to help you find one that fits your budget.
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