One of the biggest investments you’ll ever make is in your education. You want to spend that money wisely — but how do you become a savvy consumer when what you’re comparing is as big and complicated as universities?

Allen Grove, an admissions adviser (and English professor at Alfred University in New York), has identified 15 factors to consider when evaluating colleges. He developed the list for students currently in high school, but thinks that most of the items apply to all potential college students, regardless of age.

“Graduation rates, student-faculty ratios and financial aid are just as important — maybe more important — to nontraditional and part-time students,” Grove says. “All of this data should be looked at in context, though.”

When looking at faculty, for instance, nontraditional students should look not just at class size but at who is teaching the classes they want to take. “Some schools primarily serve traditional-age students, so their full-time faculty is there. Degree-completion or general studies programs may be taught by adjunct [part-time] faculty hired just to teach those classes,” Grove explains.

 

The one factor he’d add to the list for nontraditional students would be the availability of support services. “When are campus offices open? Are they strictly nine to five, or are they open evenings?” he asks.

What to evaluate

Here is Grove’s list of factors.



1. Attractiveness of campus

2. High graduation rate

3. Low student-faculty ratio

4. Good financial aid

5. Internships and research opportunities

6.?Travel opportunities

7. Engaging curriculum

8. Clubs and activities to match your interests

9. Good health and wellness facilities

10. Campus safety

11.?Good academic support services

12. Strong career services

13.?Good computing infrastructure

14.?Leadership opportunities

15. Strong alumni network

You can read more about the significance of each factor at www.collegeapps.about.com.

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