What to look for in a college or university
When looking for a college to attend, many people are unsure of what to look for in a good school. Often they take into account the university’s reputation with peers, where it is located and if it has the program or major of their choice. However, while these are essential questions, there are other areas you should look into before committing to a particular college.
Start with social
Researching universities and colleges has become a lot easier with the internet. Most university websites and social channels will give you an inside look at programs, courses, faculty and campus life on channels like Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn and even TikTok. It’s important when looking at a prospective school to start by scrolling through their website and social media accounts to see if the atmosphere aligns with your expectations and seems like the right fit for you.
Are the faculty experienced in your field of interest?
If there is a specific industry you are interested in studying, for example, let’s suppose you are mainly interested in accounting, you’ll want to see which faculty specialize in accounting. Check to see what the accounting professors’ credentials are. What types of jobs have they held? What papers have they published? Do they teach the courses themselves our will you learn from their teaching assistants? You want to make sure you pick a college or university with faculty members who know your interest area well and are dedicated to teaching so you can absorb as much information from them as possible.
Not sure about your major? That's very common, and it's likely that you won't have your future decided before you have to choose your college or university. Be sure the school you choose is accredited and reputable as it will be a reflection of the rigor you experienced as a student.
Visit campus (physically or virtually)
Once you’ve completed your online research, you should try to set up a tour of the university. In response to COVID-19, many universities moved to virtual visits, but some universities, like the University of Northern Iowa, offer socially distanced campus visit days. When visiting the campus, take note of the atmosphere. Does it feel welcoming? Can you see yourself interacting with the students and faculty?
While you are on campus, ask if you can meet with the particular faculty member or member of the department you are interested in. They are more likely to remember you should you decide to attend that school, which will give you the benefit of knowing someone on campus. You should also ask if the college or department offers any scholarships in your area of interest or has any student work opportunities. If they do, be sure to ask if there is an application you can get while you are there.
Take a tour of the college town
Many universities have a strong connection with their community. It’s important to explore the college town to be sure it offers the off-campus opportunities you’re expecting from your college experience. Where is the campus located in proximity to grocery stores, restaurants and nightlife? How about internet connectivity and cellular service? For example, Cedar Falls, Iowa provides gigabit internet speeds to residents, including students at the University of Northern Iowa.
Picking a university or college is a difficult decision. However, with the right amount of research, you can make an informed choice. Don’t shy away from asking questions, but make sure the questions you ask are ones that you weren’t able to find on your own. Realizing that you are making a large investment in your future will help you look at aspects that perhaps you hadn’t thought about.
In the end, this will help you pick the right college for you.