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Questions to Ask When Picking a College

In another article, "Finding a College That Fits," you can take a self-assessment test and interrogate yourself about what you want from a college. You should also grill each college you are considering to uncover how well it matches your needs. As you are researching the colleges or universities, keep these questions in mind:

    Academics
  • How strong is the school in your field?
  • What is the reputation of the college?
  • Are there professors who are researching subjects that are of interest to you?
  • How accessible are the professors?
  • How many other students are currently in your major?
  • How large are the classes?
  • What are the requirements to earn a degree? How many classes do you need to take? Do you have to write a thesis or do a final project?
  • Are classes taught by professors or teaching assistants?
  • What kind of research opportunities will you have?
  • Does the school provide remedial classes in case you need to refresh your knowledge?
  • Is low-cost tutoring available?
  • Is going to school part-time or during evenings and weekends an option?
    Career preparation
  • What services does the career services office provide?
  • Will the school help you find a job after you graduate?
  • Does the school have a strong alumni network?
  • Are summer internships available at nearby businesses?
  • What companies recruit on campus, and what positions do they recruit for?
  • Will the program provide you with the skills or education that you need to reach your career goals?
    Special considerations for adult students
  • Does the school have an adult services or adult education office?
  • Does it provide childcare?
  • Are the classes held at a time when you can attend?
  • Are the university offices, libraries and student centers open when you will be on campus?
  • Does the college understand the special needs of adult students?
  • How many other adult students are enrolled?
    Social
  • Are there activities and organizations in which you can get involved?
  • Is there an organization for adult students?
  • What kind of networking opportunities are there for adult students?
  • Do you feel comfortable on campus?
    Financial aid
  • How much does the school cost?
  • How well does the school meet the financial need of its students?
  • Does the school provide loans, scholarships or grants for adult students?
  • How helpful are the people in the financial aid office?
    Practical considerations
  • How far is the school from where you live?
  • Can you attend the school part-time?
  • Does the school offer weekend, evening, distance learning or accelerated programs?

Creating A Short List

Now that you have discovered what you want from a college and have researched each of the schools that you are considering, you can make a short list of the three to five schools that you are most interested in attending. It's time to request applications and start applying. If you are applying to more than one school, you'll probably wait until you get your acceptance letters and financial aid offers before you make your final decision.

Picking the right college is not easy. You need to be honest with yourself about why you are going back to school and what you need to be successful. You also need to research each of the colleges to make sure that they offer programs that fit your schedule and won't make you feel out of place. While it might seem like a daunting task in the beginning, if you spend the time to take all of these steps before choosing a program, you will end up with the best match possible.