What College Should I Go To? How to Choose

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

You’re likely facing one of the biggest decisions you’ve had to make so far. Explore some tips to help make deciding on the college you’ll attend easier.

[Featured Image] A group of college students talk while leaving a building on campus.

Choosing a college to attend is a major life choice, and it requires lots of research. If you’re unsure how to decide which college is right for you, consider different factors that may affect your experience. 

Your time in college should be one filled with growth, learning, and gaining of skills that will help you throughout the rest of your life, so the college you choose should help you accomplish your goals and set you up for success.

Read more: Applying to College: Your Step-by-Step Guide

What college should I go to?

When choosing a college, you’ll want to determine the factors that will make the biggest impact on your decision. You’re attending the school, so make sure it meets your needs, fits your aspirations, and supports your future path.  

Your choice should be in line with what you want to achieve. Here are some questions to consider when deciding:

  • Does the school you’re looking at have your intended major?

  • What do the school alumni have to say about the college?

  • Is the college located in a rural area, a hip town, or a bustling big city, and which do you prefer?

It’s important to ask yourself these questions and become familiar with what you need and want from your college experience before applying to and attending.

Read more: Is College Worth It?

Factors to consider

Factors that may influence your college decision include price, school size, location, programs available, and housing options. Learn more about each factor and its importance in the list below.


College can be costly, so you’ll want to consider the price of attending per semester and for the duration of your degree program. If you have a specific budget, you can look at colleges that fit in that range. Costs like application fees, as well as room and board, may factor into your overall decision. Opportunities such as financial aid, scholarships, and grants may help you cover the cost of tuition and save you from long-term debt. 

Read more: What to Do if You Can't Afford College (Even With Financial Aid)

College size

The number of college or university students may impact your learning experience. If you choose to attend a college with more attendees, you'll likely have classes and lectures with more people versus a smaller college, which will provide more intimate learning experiences with smaller class sizes.


Where the college or university you attend is located may impact various factors. It will likely affect the cost of living, the people you’ll meet, and your experiences. It’s also helpful to consider the distance from where you live and whether you can commute or need to live on campus. 

You need to decide if you want to attend a college in a big city or small town and how you'll get from your place of living to classes based on the transportation methods available. Another thing to ask yourself is if living in a big city that has lots of space for new experiences and meeting new people is important to you. If it is, you’ll want to gear your list of potential colleges toward bigger cities that will add more to your college experience besides just a degree.

Available majors

Depending on your intended field of study, you will need to attend a college that offers the major you want. Some colleges have a smaller pool of majors and minors, while others have more options for you to choose from. When choosing the college you want to attend, ensure that your area of study or the program you’ll apply for is available in their catalog. If you’re not sure what you want to study yet, aim to attend a college with various options to avoid having to transfer to a different college later. 

Housing options

If you want to stay on campus, you can research potential housing options and how they differ from school to school. Some colleges require you to share a dorm with one or several roommates, while others may allow you to room alone. The housing options will also factor into the cost of school since you’ll need to pay for room and board on top of tuition costs.

How to decide which college is right for you

Consider what’s important, what you want to study, and the schools that fit your needs to determine the right college. Figure out what you want to gain from your college experience and list those priorities. If you want to remain close to home and commute to save on housing expenses, look for colleges near your hometown. If you want to explore a bigger city and attend large lectures, find colleges that will allow you to do just that.  

In addition to prioritizing what you want from your college experience, the following steps can help you decide. 

Read more: How Many Colleges Should You Apply To?

1. Conduct research.

You can research colleges by visiting their websites or calling the admissions office for more information. Conduct research to make it easier for you to make a final decision by listing your priorities and figuring out which schools best fit your wants and needs.

2. Schedule tours. 

Schedule a tour of the college you’re interested in so that you can see it in person and decide whether it will be a good fit. A tour will help you discern the atmosphere of the campus and explore where you may want to live, as well as other places you’ll go on a daily basis, such as classrooms, lecture halls, dining halls, the admissions office, and the surrounding neighborhoods.

3. Make a list.

When listing potential colleges, prioritize them from your first choice to a few backup schools. Doing so can help narrow your search once you receive acceptance letters. The list will also serve as a source to help you easily compare important factors, such as tuition costs, housing, the available majors, and each school’s location.

4. Apply to schools.

Once you’ve made your list of colleges that interest you and meet your criteria, you can begin applying. To do so, you’ll need to visit each college’s website and complete the necessary steps and application process. The application fee and process may vary from school to school, so do exactly as each application says to ensure that you’re considered for admission.

Learn more with Coursera

If you’re looking to start your higher education journey, a great first step is researching bachelor’s and master’s degrees that interest you. Before applying to a college or university, you can explore courses that may help grow your skills and prepare for the future. Consider Getting Started with Essay Writing from the University of California, Irvine, on Coursera.

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