The list of college options would seem endless for any candidate with the marks to show. Making that final pick should be based on multiple factors. Image Credit: Reuters

Thousands of universities; a thousand different campuses and student bodies. All adding up to a thousand unique opportunities.

With such abundance and diversity of options, students are guaranteed to find the ‘right fit’ college for their higher education. So, how do you make your college list, arguably the first important decision in your young adult life?

College is as much about personal growth and development as it is about academics. Thus, it is essential to take a holistic approach and assess your priorities.

The academics part

Universities have varying academic strengths; some may specialize in business or design while others may boast well-reputed architecture or engineering departments. In fact, not every college may offer the major you hope to pursue. Some colleges place a heavy focus on research while others may be more connected to industry.

Often, we look at general rankings to determine the best colleges, but students should venture beyond this to determine strong programs in their field of study. Yes, rankings are important, but they are subjective and should never be your sole driving factor.

Culture too

Some colleges offer unparalleled and vast resources to explore different interests. A huge pool of these opportunities exist outside the classroom - clubs and organizations, student government and advocacy groups, research labs and art studios, volunteering programs and internships, and sports and acapella groups.

Some colleges provide an abundance of religious or cultural groups while others are more focused on STEM- or business-related clubs. Diversity in the student body, work-life balance, academic rigour, and quality of life are all essential factors to consider.

The transferable skills college students gain from their extracurricular involvements outside of academics make them well-rounded individuals, equipping them to become leaders in their fields. Take these factors into serious consideration and explore the unique offerings presented at each university.

Which projects excite you? What community initiatives do you want to be a part of? Does your personality fit the campus culture? These experiences can shape some of the most gratifying and memorable times in your life.

Size and geographical reach

You may be sitting in a class of 300 students or 20 students; some universities have different sizes of student bodies. At a large university, you may meet different people each day and befriend new students every class, while at a smaller university, it is a tight knit community.

Teaching assistants provide more support in larger universities while smaller ones provide more personalized attention from professors. Moreover, consider the weather and location.

Would you want to live in a city where it snows most of the year? A student taking marine biology may want to enroll in a coastal city to facilitate field research. Are you a city person or would you prefer a rural campus?

Creating a college list must be tailored to every student’s interests and priorities. Creating this personalized list is exciting and incredibly important. In the four years at college, you will thrive academically while growing and learning as a young adult and member of a community. Your college will be your new home, so research and choose wisely.