How to: Choose the Right College for You

There are countless factors that go into deciding which college or university is right for you. Here's a list of a few that we think are important, but through the lens of career development specifically.

1. Geography

Obviously where (in terms of location) you want to go to school is a high priority for everyone looking at colleges, but it's also important for reasons that a lot of us don't think about. If you want to go into a common field of business, your best bet is to go to a school that's close to a big city.

If you want to go into finance, not only should you look into the core finance schools, but you should also look into schools that are close to New York City and Chicago - the two largest financial centers in the United States. Recruiting for firms in those areas tends to be pretty regional, so you also have to think about where you want to work long-term.

The same can be said for consulting recruitment - while firms are nationwide or even global, recruitment into certain offices is regional. If you went to a school in the Midwest and applied to both the Chicago and NYC offices, chances are you'd get staffed in the Chicago office.

2. Degree Selection

A lot of schools are known to be funnels into certain types of jobs or into business schools, so you need to take that into consideration. Going hand in hand with that, many schools also don't offer some majors or areas of study. For example, I go to school that does not have an undergraduate finance or business degree.

This could be an advantage or disadvantage depending on how you look at it. If you want to go into finance but aren't a finance major, interviewers might take it easier on you since they know you didn't get the formal knowledge via classes. That being said, in some cases it's a lot harder to actually get interviews if your major isn't applicable to the job you're applying to. So choose wisely based on what classes you can take and what you can major in.

3. How Many Students Go There

A lot of schools like to brag about how small their classes are via student to professor ratios, and don't get me wrong that's a great thing. Smaller classes means more personalized instruction and typically, students learn more that way.

In terms of career prospects, though, a larger school might lead to a larger professional network, which is definitely beneficial. In my opinion, finding the right balance between class size and overall school size is a very important consideration. College is an important place to build your network, and the people you meet there can become resources for you later on in your career. After all, your classes are just as important as your career search.

4. Where This School Places Students

A roundabout way to figure this out is to either go on LinkedIn and search for people from this university in industries that interest you, or try to see if their alumni network is publicly available. You want to see if it's common for this school to place graduates in jobs or graduate schools that interest you. This requires a bit of foresight on your part in that you have to figure out what your career aspirations are, and that brings up my next point.

5. Check Out the Course Catalog

If you have no idea what to do, go out there and take any class you're interested in. I came into college having no idea what exactly I wanted to do, and so I took a bunch of random classes to find out what I was interested in and what major would be the most practical for my career aspirations. Basically, take classes to figure out what you want to do, what you'd be good at, and what opens the most doors for you.

6. Learn About the Students and Organizations

The people you'll be surrounded by have a huge impact on your college experience. In terms of professional development, we touched on how your network will grow in college but there's also more to consider here - will the students push you to further develop your skillset and think more critically about problems?

On that note, are there organizations on campus that will provide you good pre-professional experience? I've been involved in a few business clubs on campus that have easily been some of my most rewarding experiences. These organizations give you awesome hands-on experience and more importantly, build up your resume and give you stories to talk about in interviews. I actually sacrificed my GPA to focus on building my professional toolkit via extracurriculars, and I don't regret it one second.

7. Take the Time to Self-Reflect

What's the most important part of going to college for you? Are you looking to learn and enjoy the college experience before you're forced into being an adult and working? Are you looking for the best possible school you can get into for academics? Maybe the most exit opportunities possible? You should consider all these things.

Personally, I went into this process looking for the school that would open the most doors for me. I didn't really think about the "fun" factor very much, but I was lucky enough to end up at a great school where I've made amazing friends. In hindsight, I think it's extremely important to balance hard work with fun. Don't lean too far one way or the other, though. Study hard, work hard at your extracurriculars, but take some time every once in a while to decompress, and definitely don't pass up the opportunities to make memories with your friends. You're still young! Worry about the things you can control, and worry about the present - nobody knows what they'll be doing five years from now.