10 Factors to Consider When Applying to College


Tonia Darbro

BCHS seniors Sadie and Bailey Darbro touring the University of Kentucky.

Bailey Darbro, Jr. Editor

Each of us has unique needs, educational goals, and priorities that influence where we choose to go to college. While each influence is important, the most important things to consider are your career aspirations and what you want out of your college experience. 

Part of your process will involve deciding which criteria matters most to you. As a high school student, knowing which criteria to consider important in your college search can be tricky. That’s where this list comes in. 

1. Academics 

First and foremost, you want to go to a school that has a program you’re interested in. Does the school offer the major you want to pursue? Does it have a good program in your area of study with many resources available? Are the academics at this school able to challenge you and enable you to grow? Avoid applying to schools that don’t have the degree program you want. 

Current University of Kentucky graduate student Dylan Montgomery reflected on his experience with college applications and offered advice for seniors currently applying. “I approached college applications very seriously. You have to take it seriously and put a lot of thought into it so the schools know you are seriously considering them,” he said. 

2. Location 

Do you want to be close or far away from home? Do you want to go to school in a big city or rural area? Small college towns often engender a more intimate sense of community that lets you build strong relationships with peers and professors, whereas schools in large cities can grant you access to a variety of social and cultural activities, not to mention internships with major companies. Take into account the average temperatures for the area, the seasonal changes, and yearly rainfall. 

3. Campus Size 

You’ve got small liberal arts colleges with fewer than 1,000 students, and state universities that annually enroll over 30,000 students. While small schools may not offer as many programs as large universities, they do often provide specialized degrees and a plethora of hands-on learning opportunities. Small colleges can also mean smaller class sizes, allowing you to easily access one-on-one support from professors and advisors. Students with clear interests and goals tend to thrive at large universities because they can take advantage of diversity in coursework, activities, and professional resources. Due to their superior funding, large schools typically maintain well-stocked libraries, state-of-the-art research facilities, and nationally recognized sports teams. 

4. Financial Aid and Cost 

Do you have the necessary means to pay for this college? Will your scholarships cover most of the tuition? Will you have to work part-time during college? What will your cost be once financial aid is taken into account? On top of tuition, you have to pay for room and board, books, additional supplies, transportation, and other expenses that add up quickly. If you choose to stay in-state with your family, tuition may be more affordable and you can save money by staying at home. On the other hand, out-of-state tuition can be more expensive, but it may give you more opportunities for professional development and growth. There are also a variety of scholarships you can apply to, and you shouldn’t stop applying once you graduate high school. Try to wait until you’ve received a financial aid or scholarship decision to then consider your ability to attend.  

5. Student Life and Extracurriculars 

Does this school offer extracurricular activities and clubs you want to be in? Are the campus activities exciting to you? Depending on your interests, you may want to look into schools with a strong commitment to Greek life or a vibrant art scene. If you value a sports culture in college, you may consider schools with good sports teams so you can attend these games. Check on the college website to see which clubs or activities interest you. 

“Every school offers something unique, so find what fits you best,” said Montgomery. 

6. Housing 

There are some schools that require all freshmen to live on campus, but there are also many schools to which students commute to campus. Will you stay in a student residence or campus housing? How easy is it to find an off-campus place to live? Do you want a roommate? If you’d rather live off-campus, you should investigate what renting an apartment will cost you per month, and familiarize yourself with the communities you’re considering living in. Is public transit a viable option, can you walk to campus, or will you need a car? 

7. Diversity 

Going to college is a great way to meet other students from different backgrounds and get to know others. Does the campus seem diverse? Do students from different backgrounds seem to interact often? Do you see yourself feeling comfortable here? It’s also important to consider whether or not there’s a sense of community. 

“Everyone has something special about them to bring to a campus community,” said Montgomery. 

8. Study Abroad Programs 

Studying abroad is a great way to see the world while gaining an education. If there are specific countries or programs you’d be interested in, find out whether or not the school has the options you’re looking for. Are study abroad programs offered within your major? Are the academics strong within these study abroad programs? Are you able to study abroad within the country you’ve always wanted?

9. Career Success 

Whether it be continuing your education or entering the workforce, learning how your degree will translate into a career is important. Are there services to help polish your resume, improve your interview skills, and find job opportunities? If you’re interested in medicine, law, or specialized graduate studies, how can the school help you prepare? What sort of graduate and professional programs does the college offer? Does the school have co-op programs to help you explore career options? 

“Do a lot of research. See if the schools you are looking at have any programs that allow you to easily find jobs, offer internships, and if they have guaranteed admissions to graduate programs,” said Montgomery. 

10. Your Feeling On Campus 

How you feel about a certain college is the most important. Do you feel like you’re at home? Do you see yourself here for the next four years? Do you feel the love and enthusiasm radiating from the school? You want to be somewhere where you’ll be happy and enjoy life. You want this school to be right for your goals, needs, and happiness. Visiting the school is often the best way to answer these questions. 

“I ultimately chose the University of Kentucky because it was close to home and felt like home. I received scholarships, and personally, I knew I would enjoy my time there more than any other school I visited,” said Montgomery. 

Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine which factors are most important. College is a big and exciting life decision, so find a school that lets you succeed in both academics and life experiences. You got this! The staff at Le Petit Colonel wishes you the best of luck in your college search!