What you shouldn’t forget when picking a school

Things to keep in mind when picking a school

You might know exactly what you’re looking for. Great food, good housing options, an even better cost—but is that all you want? There are so many elements of a school that people don’t think about until they’re on campus. Get ahead of the curve and think about these overlooked college aspects before Decision Day.

Here’s what you should keep in mind when picking your school

#1: First-year retention rates. You’ve spent so much time planning how you’ll get into school and all of the things you’ll do once you get there—but have you thought about whether you’ll stay past your first year? A first-year retention rate tracks the number of students who stay at that school from their first year to their sophomore year.footnote 1 You might assume you’ll become a sophomore, but it’s a good idea to do some research on the percentage of students who stay for more than one year at your school of choice. This can give you insight on whether this is a good school for you.

#2: Graduation rates. Of course, graduation is the goal of college. But similar to freshman retention rates, a graduation rate is the percentage of first-time, first-year undergraduate students who finish their degree program within 150% of the program’s published time. So, if you go to school for a four-year degree, the graduation rate for your class would be the percentage of students who finished within six years.footnote 1 You should want to know what percentage of students make it to graduation at the schools you’re thinking about. If a school has a low graduation rate, you might want to re-think if that’s a school you’ll be successful at.

#3: College ranking and reputation. Depending on what you want to study or what sports team you want to root for, ranking and reputation can play a big role. For example, some schools are known for their business programs, and some of the most successful businesspeople may have gone there. Other schools may have the best athletics, and you want to be a part of their culture. If these are important to you, do a quick search to see where the school is ranked.

#4: Local job prospects for your degree. You may or may not know what you want to study yet, and that’s fine! Just keep in mind that the area you go to school in might be one of the places you want to work in. Will you be in an area that has good internship or job opportunities for you?

#5: Accreditation. Accreditation is when a school is recognized for upholding high educational standards. This means that you can be sure you’ll receive a quality education at that institution. A school being accredited should be a must-have for you—not a nice-to-have. Check out the U.S. Department of Education’s database with all the accredited schools here.

#6: Access to resources and staff. When picking a school, one of your main priorities should be making sure that you have ample resources to get your work done and all the right people to go to for help and questions. This means tutoring services, office hours, technology, equipment, and even clubs.

#7: Transportation. You have to know exactly how you’ll get around at your school of choice. Will you need to figure out a new bus or train system? Will walking everywhere suffice? Do you need your own car? How’s the parking situation? The answers to these questions will vary from school to school, but it’s important to weigh all your options.

#8: Career services. Having good local job prospects is important to take note of, but even more important is your access to career services through your school. Does this school have a career services department? Are there success coaches available for mock interviews, resume checks, or internship advice? Is there a campus wardrobe for professional attire? Are there classes to help with gaining professional experience?

#9: Health services. Getting sick is pretty much inevitable in college, and you need to make sure that you have the right help when you need it. Does this school have health services that suit your needs? Are there hospitals or urgent care facilities in the area that accept your health insurance? Are there pharmacies nearby where you can get medicine and pick up prescriptions?

#10: Feeling of belonging. The last (and most important) thing to keep in mind when picking a school is how it makes you feel. College life is more than a gorgeous campus with dorms to die for and the best food ever. Does this school make you comfortable? Do you feel like you’re at home? Do you feel like you can be your authentic self? When the school is the right fit for you, you’ll feel it. I promise.

Enter to win $2,000 for college

  • A new winner is drawn each month.
  • NO essay!
  • Takes less than 2 minutes to enter.

No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Odds of winning depend on number of entries received. Ends 12/31/2024. 
See Official Rules.

Feel confident in your choice

Picking a school is a big deal, so make sure you treat it like one. Cool school merch and tailgates on game day are fun and important to a lot of students, but there’s more to what makes a school the right fit for you. You’re unique, and the school you go to can be everything that you need. Choose wisely, and good luck!

footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey, financial, tax, or legal advice. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances.

footnote External links and third-party references are provided for informational purposes only. Sallie Mae cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided by any third parties and assumes no responsibility for any errors or omissions contained therein. Any copyrights, trademarks, and/or service marks used in these materials are the property of their respective owners.

footnote Sallie Mae, the Sallie Mae logo, and other Sallie Mae names and logos are service marks or registered service marks of Sallie Mae Bank. All other names and logos used are the trademarks or service marks of their respective owners. 

footnote 1. https://studentaid.gov/help/graduation-retention-transfer-rates

StudentHub by