What to Look for in a Good College: the Ultimate Checklist by Jane Crighton

College Life
What to Look for in a Good College: the Ultimate Checklist by Jane Crighton gives sound college selection advice from a relatively recent graduate who should know. As someone who graduated in 1969, I find this advice up to date and valuable. While the pandemic has further complicated college selection, this advice should stand the test of time. Thanks, Jane.


  • Choosing the right college is such a momentous decision in every student’s life. It’s both emotionally and financially straining for most families. It’s when most students move out of the comfort of home for the first time. The decision brings with it both freedom and responsibility. As they say, with great power/freedom comes great responsibility. It’s a step that can’t be avoided for the student’s good. The child needs to move out and see the world and make and learn from her experiments. The goal is to choose the right course, avoid toxic friends, pay the bills, and be responsible for herself all at the same time.
  • My parents gave me the freedom to select a University away from home when I scored higher than they expected. At first, I was happy being away from the strict vigil of my family, but eventually, it weighed on me somewhat. That’s when I understood the value of family and what I had taken for granted in the past.
  • One needs to select a college where they like the culture, that has the major they want, and is located appropriately. There are many small and big things that go into deciding the best college for you. However, it may not be possible to find a college that ticks off all the points. You will have to prioritize and decide which points matter most to you and that will best impact your career.
  • Once you have decided on all your criteria, it’s time to write perfect college application essay. Writing a firm and decisive essay ensures that the College sees how you will be a good fit.

A Checklist for What to Look for in a Good College

  • First, the college must have a high graduation rate. This is a direct indicator of how efficient the college is. Every college aims to help students graduate, so the absence of the same is something to avoid. A college where the students have a lower graduation rate is doing something wrong. This means that something is missing in the system and you shouldn’t be a part of it. Some colleges are extremely selective and only take students who are likely to graduate. Others are open to all and risk lower rates for admitting students who perform poorly.

Student to Faculty Ratio

  • College is difficult for a lot of students. There are multiple assignments to take care of, papers, friends, relationships, and finances too. A lot of students feel depressed and are prone to breakouts. Teachers play a big role in a students life, for multiple reasons. Not only do they help a student as a teacher but they can also play the role of a mentor if you reach out. A good teacher helps their students to deal with academic and emotional challenges. They can impart knowledge that is timeless and precious too. This is why a lower ratio of faculty per student is another crucial factor.

Location of the College

  • A good college should be out of town so that you don’t end up coming home for the lamest of reasons. I have had friends who went home to get their laundry done and most times they would stay for a day or two. That’s when I understood how the distance worked in my favor when I was in school. Students might have varied interests, so select accordingly as four years is a long period of time. Visit the college well in advance and talk to the students there. This will give you an idea about how you may or may not be able to fit in after college starts.

Financial Aid Provided by the College

  • A good college is useless if you can’t afford it. The exact amount that you will have to pay for a college is not known until you receive their financial aid package. The financial aid that students receive in private and public colleges varies greatly. You can always check the percentage of students that get financial aid in a college. Do not make the mistake of selecting a college that is not willing to meet you halfway. A suitable college is the one that pays some financial aid and enables you to pay the rest over time.

Check the Quality of the Department of Study and Also the Faculty Members

  • You need to know that the teachers teaching you are among the best in the industry. Check if the department of your choice has ten or more tenure track professors in it. This shall ensure that you have experienced teachers to guide you through. (Doug: I like this number. Being part of a big department in a smaller school can give you the best of both worlds.)
  • You also need to check the quality of the department and its facilities that you are interested in. Imagine being in mechanical engineering but getting admitted to a college with a limited number of lathe machines. Check the labs and talk to the faculty/students, well in advance before making a decision. You always have the option to transfer from one university to another, but if you are prepared you probably won’t have to. Ensure that the college has great research opportunities and offers high-quality internships. Depending on your major you may want internships or study abroad.

Co-curricular Activities Within the Campus

  • College life is not all about academics. It’s a mix of all things in the right proportion. Selecting a college that pays no attention to its students’ overall development is not wise. College is when you can rekindle your love for a hobby you had during childhood or find a new one. It could be singing, drumming, or even mountaineering. Check if the college has clubs and encourage the same. Some colleges may choose literary arts over adventure sports. Choose a college that encourages you to grow both intellectually and emotionally.
  • Understand that the bonds that you make during college can last forever. Be it the senior you shook hands with or the guest faculty for greek literature, the impression matters. You must stay wise and alert, college days shape your personality greatly for the future that awaits.

Career Services

  • There are other factors like campus safety, health and welfare, and career services that need consideration while deciding on a college. A good college provides all of this support and helps to get its students placed after graduating. Some majors ensure that you get a job immediately out of college, while some others take their time. Take an informed decision based on your priorities, while deciding on your major. If you aren’t sure of the career you want to pursue, consider taking some take some time off to decide on a career option that best suits your goals. Good luck.

Jane Chighton

  • As an academician by passion. Jane delivers online sessions at Expert Assignment Help (UK), helping students with writing essays and assignments. She is also one of the co-founders and education consultants at Top My Grades. Beyond work, you can find her perfecting her yoga postures. You can reach her by email at jane1989crighton@gmail.com.
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