Where should I go to college?

What college should I go to? For high school seniors, it’s the most pressing question right now. Where you go to college can have a long-lasting impact, so this decision is likely one of the biggest choices you’ll make.

Deciding where to go can be a challenge. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are over 5,900 postsecondary institutions to choose from. But you can narrow down your options and select the best college for you by considering your priorities and

What college should I go to? 7 Questions to ask

Experts vary on how many college applications they believe you should send, but it’s generally recommended that you apply to three to eight colleges and universities to give yourself the best chance of being accepted.

As you receive acceptance letters and weigh your options, ask yourself the following seven questions to identify the best school:

1. What majors does the college offer?

From accounting to linguistics, there are hundreds of majors to choose from. If you know what you’d like to major in, look for a university that has a strong reputation in that field. A school well-known for that major can prepare you for a successful career due to its relevant coursework and professional alumni network.

For example, if you plan on majoring in marketing, some of the best schools include the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, the University of Pennsylvania and New York University.

U.S. News & World Report releases its Best College Rankings every year, and it lists the best undergraduate schools for different majors. Look for the schools that have accepted you and see where they stand on the list for your selected major.

2. Where is the college located?

Where your school is located can affect your college experience. According to a study published in Emotion, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, 94% of students reported experiencing homesickness during their first 10 weeks of college.

Consider the school’s distance from your home and loved ones, as well as the college’s environment. For example, if you live in a rural or suburban area, a college located in the middle of a bustling city may feel overwhelming. By contrast, if you grew up in the city, a college located in a rural area may feel isolated.

When choosing a college, think about how comfortable you are with change and how often you can visit home due to the distance and cost of travel.

3. What type of college is it?

When thinking about how to pick a college, one of the biggest decisions is what type of school to choose. There are several options:

  • Two- or four-year: Two-year schools, also known as community or junior colleges, offer associate degrees and certificate programs. They tend to be significantly less expensive than four-year schools, but they don’t issue bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Four-year schools tend to be more expensive, but they’re larger and often have more campus amenities.
  • Public or Private: Public schools are much cheaper than private schools, but they tend to have larger campuses and class sizes. Private schools can be pricey, but they tend to offer smaller classes and more personalized attention.

4. How much will it cost to attend that school?

“What college is best for me?” — If you find yourself asking that question, one of the biggest factors to take into consideration is the cost of your education. Below are the average prices for two- and four-year schools for the 2023-2024 academic year, as reported by The College Board:

Tuition and Fees

Two-Year School
(Public In-State)
(Private Non-Profit)
Tuition and Fees $3,990 $11,260 $41,540
Room and Board $9,970 $12,770 $14,650
Books and Supplies $1,470 $1,250 $1,250
Transportation $1,930 $1,290 $1,100
Other Expenses $2,500 $2,270 $1,880
Total Cost $19,860 $28,840 $60,420

But the cost of your tuition and other expenses aren’t the only factors to keep in mind. How much financial aid you’re eligible for, particularly in the form of scholarships and grants, can reduce your net price.

Carefully compare your financial aid award letters to identify the college that gives you the most aid and lowest overall cost.

5. What type of student loans will I need to take out?

You’ll likely need to borrow money to cover some of your education expenses. The College Board reported that approximately 51% of bachelor’s degree recipients graduated with student loan debt, owing an average of $29,400.

In general, experts recommend borrowing no more than you’d earn in one year once you get a job after graduation. You can look up typical salaries for entry-level jobs for your field and location via PayScale to get an idea of how much you should borrow.

6. What is the graduation rate and employment rate?

Graduating within four years is the ideal scenario, but some students require more. Every additional year you take to complete your degree increases your overall education costs, and you may need to take on more student loan debt to cover the cost.

When considering potential schools, look at their graduation rates to see what percentage graduates on time. You can look up graduation rates via the U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard.

7. What is the campus like?

Finally, if you plan on living on campus, think about what experiences you’d like. For many students, diversity is a top priority, so schools with resources for students from different backgrounds, ethnicities and races can be appealing.

Similarly, if you’re interested in Greek life, finding a school with active sororities and fraternities may be an important factor affecting your decision.

Other factors to consider include campus amenities, like the dining options and dorm accommodations, and available extracurricular activities.

Making a decision

As National Decision Day approaches, you may feel pressure to choose a college right away. What college is best for you depends on your priorities, major and preferences, but you can narrow down your options by evaluating your financial aid packages and the colleges’ academic programs.

Typically, colleges require a decision by May 1. Contact your selected college’s admissions office to find out what the deadlines are and when you need to make a decision and send a deposit.


Which product best suits you?

Interested in building your credit?

Set sights on a brighter financial future by establishing a positive credit history easily and safely with Ambition Card.

Ambition Card by College Ave
Find My Application