Choose your college

Getting training after high school may help you get a better-paying job doing work you like. But going to school is a big investment. You’re investing your time. Chances are you’ll also have to invest your own money or take out a student loan to go to school. So you need to be sure that you’re choosing the right school.
  1. Talk to your counselor. Your school counselor is the first stop for information about the options available to you. Counselors can help you focus on your needs and goals, and they have information about different types of schools. Your counselor also can help you collect or prepare application materials.
  2. Shop around. Contact more than one school. If you’re looking for vocational training, check the Yellow Pages under “Schools” for phone numbers. If your area has a community college, call the admissions office and find out what kinds of training the college offers.
  3. Visit the school. Call the school and schedule a visit, preferably while classes are being taught. Get a feel for the school; make sure you’re comfortable with the facilities, the equipment, the teachers, and the students.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask! A good school will be happy to answer your questions about its programs. Ask the school about its students:
      • Find out the retention and graduation rates –
      • Retention rates measure the percentage of entering first year undergraduate students who continue their studies the following year.
      • Graduation rates measure the percentage of first year full-time undergraduate students who complete their program in at least 150% of the length of the program. For example, for a one-year certificate program, the graduation rate measures the percentage of students who completed the program within 18 months.
      • What kind of job placement services does the school offer students and graduates?
      • How many get jobs because of the training they received?
  1. Check the cost. Make sure the school gives you a clear statement of its tuition and fees. Remember that any federal financial aid you get will be applied first to paying the school’s tuition and fees. If there’s any money left over, the school will give it to you to help you pay for things such as food and rent.
Factors to Consider: Find the Right Fit
Things to think about as you look for schools:
  • Cost. What will your total annual costs be, including tuition and fees, room and board, books, travel and other expenses? Does the school participate in the federal student aid programs?
  • Location. This is a biggie. Do you move away or not? If you decide you might go to a school away from home, factor in the cost of traveling to and from school for holiday and semester breaks.
  • On campus or off. If you go to a school nearby, do you want to live at home, in an on-campus dorm/residence hall or in private, off-campus housing? If you attend a school away from home, do you want to live in an on-campus dorm or in private housing? These decisions may require you to balance cost versus other factors, such as your independence and lifestyle.
  • Size. Do you want a small, intimate setting? A school that’s big enough to be a city by itself? Or something in between?
  • Majors and concentrations offered. If you have an idea of what you want to study, does the school offer that major? Does their program have a good reputation? If you aren’t sure what you want to study, does the school give you plenty of options?
  • Flexibility. If you need to work full-time while you go, does the school have night courses or other options to accommodate you? Will they let you go part-time? Do they offer summer courses?
  • Admission requirements. What academic standards (grade point average, required courses, etc.) do you have to meet in high school to get in? Which tests will you have to take?
  • Accreditation. Is the school accredited? An accredited school meets certain standards set by an independent agency. Accreditation helps ensure the training and education you receive will meet the standards of employers in a specific field. You can use the U.S. Department of Education’s Institution Accreditation Search Page to check a particular school’s accreditation or to find an accredited school in a particular field or location.
  • Campus life. Does the school offer activities and social opportunities you like?
  • Religious affiliation. Do you want to attend a school associated with a particular religion?
  • Diversity. Will you feel comfortable with the makeup of the student body?
  • Career services. Does the school have programs with a good track record for helping graduates find good jobs?