10 Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a College

Students cheer at a game

The four years a person spends at a university for their undergraduate studies can be life-changing. Do you want those years (that you’re paying for) to be spent in an uncomfortable manner? These are questions that you should at least think about when choosing your home for the next four years.

Will I really be okay with being far from home?

At the beginning of my senior year of high school, I was planning to apply for colleges in New York. I’d recently decided that I wanted to major in music performance. What better place to start a music career than in New York city?! I thought about how I’d feel being so far from home (as a Louisville, Kentucky native), but honestly thought I wouldn’t mind. As my senior year progressed, auditioning at a New York school was looking less realistic. In the end, all five of the schools I applied to ended up being within a two hour drive from home. Obviously I subconsciously wanted to be close to home, and I’m so glad that it worked out this way.

Living off-campus has made me more homesick than ever, so I typically see my parents every month when they come to spend the weekend with me or pick me up to go home. A lot of my friends are also out-of-state students, but they can only get home by plane. I definitely don’t envy them, and I’m glad I made the decision (intentional or not) to stay relatively close to home.

What is the size of the school (within the university) that I’ll be attending?

When making my final college decision, everyone told me to make sure I would feel comfortable with the size of the university. When I finally decided on IU, the response I got was “that’s a big school.” I ignored these comments because I didn’t see how the size of a university can make that big of a difference. Perhaps the suburban private schoolgirl in me just wanted a change from my graduating high school class of less than 200 people.

Anyways, I still stand by my opinion that the university size doesn’t matter. At a school like IU, you pretty much identify with the school you were accepted into. I could be biased, as a Jacobs student, but before adding a minor, outside field, and certificate program to my degree, I wouldn’t have had to interact with anyone outside of Jacobs. In that case, just make sure you’re okay with the size of the school within the university you’ll fall into.

Students walk in front of an IU building

How can I get involved with “my people” from the moment I come on campus?

This is a BIG one for me. A good amount of the Black population at IU is from Indiana and they knew each other from the Groups Program. On the other hand, I’m an out-of-state student who went to a predominantly White high school. I had almost NO connections within my ethnic group when I came to school at IU, and if it wasn’t for a list of Living Learning Communities on the housing website, I would probably still be alienated to this day.

If you’re a person of color or part of the LGBTQ+ community, I can’t emphasize how important it is to connect with the other people on campus who identify the way you do FROM THE START. A lot of college friendships begin within the first couple months of school, and you don’t want to be left out. Look for any way to get connected (Hudson and Holland, Groups, 21st Century Scholars, and the Thomas I. Atkins LLC in the Forest Residence Hall are all resources for Black students at IU).

Is this college really worth giving up a bunch of scholarships from another institution?

I asked myself this question countless times during my college decision-making process. The answer was yes then and it’s still yes now. It’s no secret that tuition for out-of-state students at IU is steep. Three semesters into my degree, and I can honestly say that while paying more than three times the amount an Indiana resident would pay, I don’t regret choosing IU over schools that I could’ve attended for cheaper. This is probably the Jacobs student in me speaking, but the resources you can take advantage of at this school are too good to pass up. Scholarships (which schools are typically generous with here at IU) also tend to make the deal look a little sweeter.

In my opinion, you just need to ask yourself this question, so you know what you’re getting into and can take advantage of literally every single opportunity attending this school offers. Don’t invest money into your education if you’re not going to ensure that you get a huge return on that investment.

Students in a dorm

What are the prospects for housing?

This one is simple. Ask around to see how long students tend to live on campus. Apparently there’s a culture of moving off campus after freshman year at IU. I’m not sure if I planned on living on campus all four years, but this is something to consider financially. Sometimes off-campus housing is actually cheaper than residential living, so do your research.

Which college will accept my AP/dual credit?

If you took any AP classes during high school, you need to consider this. I only ended up needing to take a couple gen ed classes on campus, but if I had planned more strategically, I probably could have avoided all of them. In my opinion, being able to avoid taking classes that don’t directly apply to your major is ESSENTIAL. I’ve already mentioned all the fancy academic achievements I’m adding to my degree, but I wouldn’t have had room for all of that if I didn’t come in with a lot of college credit. More importantly, who wants to sit and potentially get a B in a calculus class as a music major?!

Long story short, do your homework on how to finesse your way out of a lot of unnecessary stress (transferable credits from a community college or a university in your home state that might grant tuition remission or scholarships). The IU Office of Admissions has a Credit Transfer Service you can use to see which courses may count for credit.

Pre game event of IU football

Am I here strictly for academics or for “the experience” and education in equal amounts?

I don’t mean to make those who value a social life feel bad with this question. All I’m saying is, if you like to go to parties with your friends, make arrangements for that and make sure to choose a school environment that’ll be conducive to your happiness. On the flip side, if you don’t like going to sporting events, don’t let the people at the rec center during orientation week convince you to buy the sports package in the spirit of “branching out” and “fulfilling your college experience.”

Honestly, I think IU is great for either type of person. As a homebody who doesn’t do social events at all, I feel comfortable going to school here, and I know the people who like to socialize enjoy it here as well.

What special major programs does this school offer?

I (kinda) switched my major this past semester. While I’m still pretty much held to the same requirements I was as a Performance Major, a BSOF (Bachelor of Science and an Outside Field) aligns more with my career goals. This is a degree plan that is unique to IU, and I wish I’d started off my freshman year in this major!

Basically, if you don’t feel like a certain degree plan aligns perfectly with your interests, chances are there’s some way to make your own path by using minors, certificate programs, other majors, etc. You’re the only person who knows when you feel like you don’t belong, and advisors can’t read minds, so be honest with them and yourself. I feel so much more confident about my future since I’ve made the switch.

People laughing together at a table

Are there career development resources within my school of study?

Jacobs has Project Jumpstart, Kelley and O’Neill (SPEA) have Undergraduate Career Services. If you are deciding between IU and another school, does that other school have career development resources? I promise that mock interviews and resume coaching will come in handy.

*Editor’s note: In addition to school-specific career centers within every school on campus, there are many career development resources that all students have access to.

Do I really need my car on campus?

I think having a car on campus is just a rite of passage at this point. Are you really too bougie to ride the bus, take a Lyft, or sign up for Zipcar? Is it really worth paying ridiculous amounts of money to park your car at the stadium? You have to ride the bus to get to the stadium anyways! If your answer to these questions is “yes,” you have a couple options. Either move off campus (to take advantage of apartment parking lots) or attend a school that is friendly to student drivers.

Join the Conversation


  1. says: Shammy Peterson

    You made a good point when you said that you must be comfortable with the size of the school that you will choose. This is something that I will share with my nephew because he mentioned last night over dinner that he is planning to find a school for his master’s. He surely wants to feel at ease while studying, so I will ask him to follow your tips. https://greenville.org/degrees/

  2. says: Ava M

    I could not agree more when you said that you must consider how comfortable you can be with the size of the university that you are interested in. This reminds me of my sister’s plan to find a high school for her daughter next school year. She wants to ensure that her daughter will not have s difficult time adjusting to her new school to make everything smooth for her, so I will ask her to consider your tips. https://www.scac.nsw.edu.au/high-school-enrolment

  3. says: Thomas Clarence

    It stood out to me when you explained that the four years a person spends at college can be life-changing. With that in mind, I would think that it would be a good idea to pick a college that will help you achieve your career goals. Picking a college that specializes in the career field you want to pursue would probably make your life a little less stressful. https://windsorcareercollege.ca/contact-us-toronto-campus/

Leave a comment
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ten + sixteen =