How to Compare Colleges

At some point during your college application process, you will want to find a way to compare schools you may be interested in attending. You’ll probably start a college comparison when you are deciding where to apply.

To help you narrow your selection, we suggest you determine first what types of schools you would like to attend:

  • Private
  • Public
  • Community
  • Online
  • Vocational

Once you have decided what type(s) of schools interest you, you’ll want to find colleges that are a good fit for you by location, demographic, size, major, etc. Use some of the resources below to find and compare colleges that match your profile.

1. Location

  • Of the schools that accepted you, which one is closest to your permanent home?
  • Will you be required to pay out-of-state fees at any of the schools?
  • Is your family able to afford the plane fares and other travel expenses for you to come home on holidays and school breaks?
  • Can you handle a small town atmosphere or would you prefer a larger city, where college internships may likely be more plentiful. Do you prefer a warmer climate?

These are some of the questions that you need to discuss with your family as you compare colleges.

2. Reputation

If it’s your goal to go to the best school possible for your future profession, school reputation should be a factor in your college comparison. Reputation is in many ways subjective, but there are annually updated reports that you can use to compare schools such as Peterson’s or U.S. News college ranking reports.

If you have already decided on your college major, you might want to select a school that has a highly ranked program for your field of study.

3. Cost

If you completed your FAFSA, you should receive financial aid award letters from each of the schools to which you were accepted. Use comparing colleges calculator to review the costs at each of your different schools, line by line. Pay special attention to the amount of free money, such as scholarships and grants, you were awarded by each school. Cost may only be one factor in your college decision, but it’s certainly an important one.

4. Social Factors

Although we feel like number 1-3 above should be far more important factors when you compare colleges, it’s important that you are happy with your college life. Some students look for other social factors, such as religion, ethnic, or cultural aspects to make sure that they will fit in.

Make sure that your college comparison process includes a trip to your prospective schools, so that you can get a feel for the activities, food and amenities offered at each school and whether you would like day-to-day life on campus.