by Emily Brehe

Deciding where to go to college can sometimes be a daunting task, especially if you’re not sure where to start.

Your college years will become some of the most formative years of your life, so it’s important to first do your research. We usually recommend that students start by creating a balanced college list consisting of about nine colleges.

But how do you decide which schools will end up on your college list? Of course, this varies from student to student, but many students start by looking at a variety of factors that would have a significant impact on their college experience.

To help you get started, we asked this year’s graduating class to share the factors that mattered most when deciding where to go to college. Read on to see the responses from former KD students.

5 Factors to Consider When Applying to College

Academics and Degree Programs

Academics should be one of the most important factors you consider when choosing a college. Your career opportunities and experience will be closely tied to the education you gain while attending college.

However, we always tell students that they shouldn’t base their college decision solely on how a school ranks on the U.S. News & World Report. There are several factors that may make a college a great fit for you such as small class sizes, honors programs, research opportunities, course offerings, scholarships, and more.

Quotes from former students:

“They have an exceptional neuroscience program while also having a distinguished school of music that will allow me to continue my studies in music.”
– Sahil M., Yale University

“Baylor provides the kind of education that I’m looking for! A major I’m excited about in the Honors Program & BIC with a generous scholarship! Excited to be a Baylor Bear!”
– Shea B., Baylor University

“I am very excited about being a part of the prestigious Cox School of Business at SMU. They gave me a great scholarship as well as invited me to be a part of their Pre-Law Scholars Program.”
– Preston B., Southern Methodist University

“This was my top choice college and program. I will get two degrees in 5 years. I will get a BS from Brown and BA or BFA from RISD. The flexibility of this program will give me the opportunity to explore my interests through Brown’s Open Curriculum while continuing my study of the fine arts. Only 15 students are accepted every year so I am very honored to be selected.”
– Josie H., Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design

“I was looking for colleges in the South that offered my undergraduate major as well as my advanced degree. I plan to major in Exercise Science for my undergraduate degree then work towards my doctorate in Physical Therapy.”
– Grace P., the University of Mississippi

“I chose Cornell because it has a great mechanical engineering program, a beautiful campus, and a wide variety of very interesting classes to choose from.”
– Morgan D., Cornell University

“USAFA will allow me to pursue my goal of being an officer in the Air Force while getting one of the best educations available.”
– Daniel J., the United States Air Force Academy

“I will be attending the University of Texas at Austin to study Business/Finance. I have always had a passion for business throughout high school as I’ve been competing in DECA and working with stocks, and found it best to attend the best business school in Texas!”
– Rushil N., the University of Texas at Austin

“I chose this college for the strong biology program, great research opportunities, and small class sizes.”
– Yasmin R., Washington University in St. Louis

“I chose [UT-Dallas] because of the curriculum and the scholarship it offered.”
– Saumil N., the University of Texas at Dallas

Campus Culture

There are many things that you can get out of college besides your degree. For some students, the campus culture is just as important as the degree programs.

You’ll want to think of your college as the place you will call home. You’ll want opportunities to make friends, get involved, and make memories that will last a lifetime. A thriving campus culture will make it easy to obtain all of these things.

Quotes from former students:

“I chose Dartmouth due to the collaborative atmosphere of the school. Despite being in the Ivy League, the students are known to be collaborative and helpful, rather than competitive. I absolutely love the diversity amongst my peers and I have full faith that all of them will change the world someday. From Ivy Day itself, Dartmouth has been sending me weekly updates and resources for me to immerse myself in the culture of the school, so I felt heard and taken care of, which is the kind of college experience I am looking for.”
– Advaita C., Dartmouth College

“The warm, collaborative atmosphere I saw when I visited drew me to apply.”
– Vivien N., Vanderbilt University

“Notre Dame is the perfect combination of prestige, community, and spirit; I will be able to grow not only academically at Notre Dame, but as a person, surrounded by the best professors and classmates.”
– Matt K., the University of Notre Dame

“I chose UT Austin because I’ve always wanted to go to a big school—they always have amazing atmospheres, and I just love the school spirit.”
– Vedika B., the University of Texas at Austin

Family tradition

For many students, it is important to carry on the legacy and attend the same college as a parent, relative, or older sibling. While we encourage students to not let this be the only reason they choose a school, it can definitely be a plus.

Attending a school with a strong alumni network can help you build a stronger bond with a family member, as well as help you build meaningful connections with new people. Networking can help lead to future internship and job opportunities.

Quotes from former students:

“Notre Dame has been my dream school for as long as I can remember! My dad went there as well as my two older brothers. Go Irish!”
– Claire I., the University of Notre Dame

“My family has a deep connection with UT Austin. My father is an alumnus, and my brother is currently there and part of the same fraternity that my father pledged.”
– Blake P., the University of Texas at Austin

“I chose Texas A&M because a lot of my family went there and loved it.”
– Austin N., Texas A&M University

Location, Location, Location

Sometimes, where a college is located can have a fundamental impact on the quality life there. Aspects like weather, city size, public transportation, and distance from home can all be factors that help define your college experience.

Quotes from former students:

“I really wanted to go to a college with a small-town feel! The atmosphere on the campus is extraordinarily friendly.”
– Kristen B., Oklahoma State University

“Another reason why I’m going to Austin is because my entire extended family lives there, so I would have support, if needed.”
– Blake P., the University of Texas at Austin

“Stanford has a great location, warm weather, good vibes, beautiful campus, a work-hard-play-hard atmosphere, and amazing and humble people.”
– Aaron L., Stanford University

The Perfect Fit

The ultimate goal when applying to college is to find your perfect fit. You may already have a goal in mind. Maybe you’ve dreamed about attending since you were a young child, or you went on a campus visit and fell in love.

The road to college is not an easy journey. It takes years of preparing and planning. But after all your hard work, there are few better feelings than receiving an acceptance letter from your dream college.

For Piper, that letter came from the University of Texas at Austin.

“UT Austin is the perfect package for me! It checks off everything from my wish list: impressive academics; a notorious culture of school spirit; and a super fun town filled with cool restaurants, cute coffee shops, an iconic music scene, and a beautiful landscape. There are countless opportunities to be involved in the university, and it is super easy to fall in love with the ecstatic morale on campus. I am so excited to experience everything UT and Austin have to offer over the next four years. Hook ‘em!”
– Piper F., the University of Texas at Austin

Need help preparing for college?

At KD College Prep, our goal has always been to help students find that perfect fit. Through our test prep programs and college counseling services, we can help you get into your dream college. Contact us to learn how to get started.

Emily Brehe is a marketing specialist at KD College Prep.