The selection process for a university can be divided into two phases. The first takes place during the application process in the fall, when you decide which schools you want to apply to, and the second takes place in the spring, after you have received the letter of admission.

In the fall, most high school students apply to more than one college they are interested in, although it is common to have only one first choice. You can use the following factors to narrow your list of schools down to a manageable number.

In the spring, when you received the letters of admission from all the universities to which you applied, you should start thinking seriously about which school you would like to attend. The following factors can help you choose the best school.

Geographical position

The location is by far one of the most important factors when choosing a university. By staying close to your family, you can benefit from cheaper tuition fees in the country and save money by living in your home. You can also cut travel costs as car journeys are usually cheaper than plane tickets.

Think about whether you want to live in a rural area, a sprawling metropolis or somewhere in between. Small college towns often create a more intimate sense of community that allows you to develop close relationships with colleagues and faculty, while schools in large cities give you access to a wide variety of social and cultural activities, not to mention internships in large corporations and not profit-oriented.

Academic quality

Regardless of what the marketing team might want you to believe, no school can offer the best programs in all areas of study. Before choosing a college, the BestColleges rankings can help you get a feel for overall academic quality and reputation.

Next, check to see if the college is regionally or nationally accredited. Regional accreditation is generally considered to be a more reliable indicator of scientific quality. Then check whether the various departments of the university are accredited in their field. For example, if you are planning to study business administration, you would want a program that is accredited by a professional association.

You can also try to assess the professional and academic performance of professors in your department by looking for awards or recognitions for groundbreaking publications or discoveries.


Colleges and universities come in all sizes: there are small humanities colleges with fewer than 1,000 students and state universities that accept over 30,000 students each year.

While small schools may not offer as many programs as large universities, they often offer specialty degrees – including self-designed majors – and a variety of hands-on learning opportunities. Small colleges can mean smaller classes too, giving you easy access to personal support from faculty and counselors.

Students with clear interests and goals thrive in large universities because they can benefit from the variety of courses, activities, and professional resources. Because of their superior funding, large schools usually have well-stocked libraries, state-of-the-art research facilities, and nationally recognized sports teams.


If you choose a college near your hometown, you will usually get lower tuition fees.

In addition to tuition fees, you need to factor in room and board, transportation, books and materials, and other tuition fees when calculating the total cost of attending.

In addition to affordable tuition fees, the best colleges also offer substantial financial support. Be sure to talk to an education advisor about grants, loans, scholarships, and dual study opportunities at your future school.

Campus environment

Since personal and professional growth also takes place outside of the classroom, it is important to consider the campus environment when choosing a college. Depending on your interests, you may want to look for schools with a strong commitment to Greek life or a vibrant arts scene.

If you appreciate the spirit of athletic camaraderie, consider schools with reputable sports teams so you can attend games and other social events. Likewise, colleges with active intramural sports organizations can allow you to make friends through recreational and competitive activities.

If academic achievement is your primary goal, consider enrolling in a Carnegie Foundation-accredited research university. These institutions channel considerable resources into student and faculty projects.

Resources and support systems

To be successful in the long term, you need to look at your needs and wants as a whole, not just as a student.

Before choosing a college, make sure that the school is appropriate for your spiritual life and your particular medical conditions or learning needs. Many students experience homesickness and other emotional challenges early in their studies, so it is a good idea to inquire about the availability of counseling services and health and wellness programs in advance.

While writing and tutoring are ubiquitous in college, make sure you have easy access to these resources when you need them.

Finally, the college of your choice should offer a range of career services to help you find internships, network with potential employers, and create engaging resumes and cover letters.