Press "Enter" to skip to content

Guide to the College Search Process – Finding Your Right-Fit College

Guide to the College Search Process

When it comes to the college search process, there is good news: there are hundreds of colleges to choose from when applying to college. A student has many options. The not so good news is that there are hundreds of colleges to choose from?

Searching for a college that is right for you can seem overwhelming and can be stressful. Don’t panic! College Admissions Unlocked will guide you through your college search. There are definitely certain qualities to look for in colleges such as whether a school is private or public, the services and facilities offered by the school, and the school’s environment.

Let’s begin the college search.


Liberal Arts College
Usually, small liberal arts colleges are not subdivided into different schools. Liberal arts schools focus on undergraduate programs and usually do not have any graduate programs. Some students like the quaintness of a small school and would feel lost at a large university.

A university is generally large in size and has undergraduate programs as well as graduate programs. Universities are usually subdivided into separate schools such as law, medical, and engineering

Specialized Institute
These schools focus on specific careers such as culinary arts, music, fashion, and engineering. If a student demonstrates a particular interest in any of these fields an institute might be the best fit. A word of caution though: a student that chooses an institute should be certain as to their career path because once they there are at the institute, they are locked into that career path (at least at that school).

Public or Private
Most states have public universities. These universities are accredited and reputable. They often are referred to as a good way for “Getting the most bang for your buck.” The tuition ranges from $2,000 a year to $15,000 a year, or more. Room and board will cost extra. Just because the school might be a public university it does not mean that a student will just be a number. There are smaller public universities. Private universities are generally more expensive and smaller in size.

Four Year College or Two Year College
You can attend a four-year college or a two-year community college. Four year colleges offer four year degrees such as Bachelors of Arts or Bachelors of Science. Two year universities offer associate degrees. Many students have to consider financial issues. One option is to attend a two-year school, and then transfer after your second year into a four-year university. A word of caution, students who choose this option needs to make sure all credits are transferable to a four-year university. One way to ensure that credits will transfer is refer to the colleges transfer guidelines. The guide will outline what credits are transferable. These guides are available for most four year universities.


Location is of paramount importance when applying to school. If the location is wrong, then the school is wrong for you. Generally speaking, if a school is over four hours away it is considered to be “far from home.”


Ask yourself this question, “Do you perform better in a small or large setting?” what type of resources Your answer will tell you whether you should go to a small or large school.


If a student has a learning disability or physical disability you need to look at each school separately to see what each school has to offer. Each school will be different. The Disabilities Right Act requires that school provide accommodations. All schools are required to provide the basics such as extra time on test, extra time on homework, and books on tape. Other schools might offer specialists, counselors, and state of the art computer software. As a guide, use the specialized guidebooks to begin your college search. This should be your first step in choosing a college. Experts advise not going to a school that does not offer accommodations that you need.

Some schools only offer advisement that helps students choose a major during registration. Other schools offer advisement and mentor the student on a weekly basis during the student’s freshman year.

Who Teaches?
An element to consider when choosing a school is who teaches. During your college search you should look at the percentage of full-time faculty as opposed to teaching assistants or adjunct professors who teach part-time.

Flexibility in the Curriculum
No requirements allow students to make up their own majors and choose their path of study. General education degrees might be offered. Students are required to choose from a wide spectrum of classes in liberal arts or the sciences. Required Core Classes are required by some schools. These types of schools require that students take certain courses in liberal arts and the sciences.

Degree of Difficulty
It is a known fact that some colleges are harder than others. A student needs to choose a school that suits your needs. Going to college is stressful. A student needs not to add more stress if he/she is used to receiving all A’s in high school and goes to college and receives all C’s or fails the first semester.

Access to Professors
In a small school usually a student will interact with professor more and will be able to expand upon academic interests. This opportunity can also be available at a large university; however, professors might not be as available.

Programs and Athletics Offered by School
If a student has a talent in the area of theater, music, art, or athletics and hopes to receive a scholarship, there are many schools to choose from. Always remember that a student must meet minimum academic standards to qualify for a scholarship.

The School’s Environment
There are many aspects of a school’s environment to consider such as political/religious/ social atmosphere, location, type of city (urban, rural or suburban) dorm situation (single or coed), and the party scene.

Financial Issues
There are many options for students looking for the “right” financial school. Public universities and community colleges are considerably less expensive than private colleges. As I mentioned before, a cost effective option for students is to attend two-year university, take your core curriculum, then transfer into a four-year university. A word of caution – make sure the credits transfer. Work closely with a guidance counselor and use the school’s transfer guide to ensure the credits are transferable.


This article has covered a lot of criteria for a student’s college search. The college search is defiantly overwhelming and can be stressful for a student. Remember, when looking for a college the first thing to look at in your checklist is the type of college setting you might like public or private. Secondly, look at the services and facilities offered by the school such as dorms, academic accommodations, and working opportunities.

The third area a student should look at when searching for a college is the educational environment. Do you prefer a small or large school? Finally, the last thing to consider in the college search is the student’s financial needs. Does the school offer scholarships and loans? This article has highlighted criteria to look at when choosing a school.

Colleges Admissions Unlocked goes one step further in the college search process with our article “Finding the Best Colleges for You” In this article, you will follow a checklist and answer a series of questions. Your answers will help you further refine your search criteria and help guide your college search process.
Best of luck in your college search.