Few decisions affect a person's future as profoundly as her choice of college. College provides opportunities to discover and begin to master a future profession. It also serves as a foundation of an adult's social network. Finally, college tuition is one of the largest purchases a person ever makes, which puts even more pressure on a student and parent to make the right selection.
Other important factors when choosing a college include the school's size, its academic reputation, its degree of specialization and its location. A student who has a specific career track in mind should research a college's faculty and job placement rates for that field. This is a key component of choosing a college. Students who are still unsure about a career path may want to consider a junior or community college to get basic courses completed at a lower tuition rate.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of making a financially responsible decision when selecting a college. Racking up student loans to attend a dream school creates a mountain of debt that affects career choices. Student debt is a national crisis; 69 percent of the class of 2013 graduated with student loans of more than $28,000. Many graduates are forced into unappealing employment situations simply to pay the bills. A student needs to remember that college only lasts four years but debt could last for decades.
Once the family narrows the list to two or three choices, students and parents should review their priorities and see which college addresses them best. Families need to rank the priorities in order of most important to least, and then take one more visit to each qualifying school before a final selection is made.