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Finding the Right College
< Beyond High School

Finding the Right College

Where Can My Child Find College Information?

There are many ways to find out about colleges before making a choice.
  • Talk to your child's high school counselor. The counselor can help your child focus on his or her needs and goals, and provide information about the different types of schools that would meet those needs. The counselor can also help your child obtain and prepare college applications.

  • Visit a variety of schools. Schedule visits when classes are in session so you and your child get a real feel for how the school operates. Make sure you are both comfortable with the facilities, the equipment, the teachers and the students.

  • Don't be afraid to ask questions. Be sure to ask about graduation rates, employment rates for graduates, and the type of job placement services available for students and graduates.

  • Use the college admissions office to check the cost. Get a complete statement of tuition and fees. Any federal financial aid you receive will be applied first to tuition and fees. If there is money left over, you may be able to use it for additional expenses such as food and housing.
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What Options are Available?

There are four types of colleges:

  • Four-year colleges and universities offer a wide range of subjects (from art to zoology) at varying levels (introductory to advanced). Public four-year institutions are usually less expensive than private institutions. You can also save money if your child chooses a public college or university located in the state in which you live.

  • Community colleges offer three types of credentials in programs of two years or less: (1) academic transfer degrees (which allow a student to move to a four-year degree institution, entering as a junior); (2) professional-technical degrees (leading to employment in a specific field); and (3) certificates (providing entry level job skills, or additional credentials for advancement in a specific job). Tuition at a community college is less than at a four-year institution, so you could save money if your child attends a community college for the first two years and then transfers to a four-year college or university.

  • Technical colleges offer two-year degrees and shorter term certificates in technical programs. Tuition is comparable to community colleges.

  • Private career colleges offer specialized degree or certificate-granting programs. Tuition varies according to the degree or program. Many programs take less than two years to complete.
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How Do I Help My Child Make the Right Choice?

When choosing a college, consider the following:
  • In-state or out-of-state. In-state tuition is less than out-of-state. Check to see if any colleges in your state offer the degree, activities and other criteria you and your child have identified.

  • Public or private. Public schools are generally less restrictive and less expensive then private schools. Publicly funded state schools are more accessible than private schools. Private schools, however, may offer smaller classes and more personalized education.

  • School size and class sizes. At large universities, classes may range from 25 to 500 students. At small colleges, classes usually range from five to 100 students.

  • Student activities. Do the colleges and universities your child is considering offer activities in which he or she would like to be involved?

  • Location. A college or university's location (rural area, small town or city) affects housing, transportation and access to off-campus activities.

  • Atmosphere and physical surroundings. A school's atmosphere is created by the interests and attitudes of the students, as well as the physical environment. A school may be politically vibrant, or may center on school spirit, tradition and athletics. Or it may have a very professional atmosphere. You and your child should consider the atmosphere that suits him or her best.

  • Housing options. Does your child need on-campus housing? Is it available? If your child wishes to live off-campus, is there accessible, safe transportation to the campus?

Completing this short assessment can help you identify important issues and find the right college:

The training program my child is interested in taking is:


This training is available at the following types of schools:
checkbox  Technical college
checkbox  Private career school
checkbox  Two-year college
checkbox  Four-year college or University

The size of school my child would like to attend:

checkbox  Small
checkbox  Medium
checkbox  Large

My child would like to attend a school:
checkbox  In-state
checkbox  Out-of-state
checkbox  In a small town
checkbox  In a mid-size city
checkbox  In a large city

The college my child attends should offer the following activities (for example - choral group, drama, marching band, student government, student newspaper):


Make a "target" school list. Five to ten schools that meet the preceding criteria are:


My child will need financial assistance to attend college.
checkbox  Yes
checkbox  No

If my child does need financial assistance, his or her "target" schools that offer financial assistance are:

Once you and your child have gathered information about the criteria that is important and have selected five to ten colleges that meet the criteria, visit each school if possible and make a final decision.

This is the beginning of an exciting journey!

For More Information:

  • Student Aid has information on preparing for, choosing, applying to, funding and attending college. It also has information on repaying college loans.
  • Visit the ACRN State Info page to find an ACRN office and contacts in your state.
  • The College is Possible website has a section on choosing the right college that includes links to additional websites and books.

  • Choosing a College, Indiana Career and Postsecondary Advancement Center, 2002.
  • College is Possible, Coalition of America's Colleges and Universities.