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Choosing a college is a life-changing decision. You will spend at least four years of your life and thousands of dollars on tuition and other expenses. There are many factors that you should consider before choosing the right school for you, but here are five essentials to keep in mind when making this decision: location, cost, major requirements, student life opportunities, and financial aid availability. Keep these factors in mind when choosing a school and you will experience success during your college years.

Consider Community College

Attending a 2-year college as a good option for many students. This is particularly true for individuals who may be need to stay close to home, are unsure of their academic goals, or who simply can’t afford to attend a 4-year institution.

Furthermore, community colleges are hands down, the best option for students who plan on working while attending classes. There are more schedule options available, attendance is not always required, and the workload may even be lighter in some areas compared to a state or private university.

Location

Where you go to college matters. Geography can determine if your school is in a small rural area where everyone knows each other, or in the middle of a bustling city with many extracurricular activities available. Also, research what type of location would be best for you- do you thrive when surrounded by people? Or would you be happier in a small town? Do you want to be surrounded by mountains and greenery, or would you prefer the convenience of being near shopping malls and movie theaters? Search for schools that offer what you need.

Cost

One of the most important things to consider when choosing a college is how much it will cost. Numerous factors go into the cost of college: tuition, room and board fees, meal plans, parking permits, application fees, and lab fees. Research what you will need to pay for in order to attend your chosen school. Also make sure you are factoring all potential expenses in when considering how much it will cost- travel costs if the school is in another state, for example.

Major requirements

If you are set on majoring in theater or journalism, you will want to choose a college that has theater or journalism programs. You may have your heart set on studying biology, but if your desired school has no biology department there are other options. Some colleges have their own “department” that allows students to major in a certain subject without being part of the official department.

Financial aid availability

Financial aid is money given to students by the school’s financial aid office in order to help with the cost of their education. Not only should you consider the type and amount of financial aid that is available, but also what types of loans are offered by your chosen school. Some schools offer grants while others might only offer loans to the students.