What should I be looking for in a college? What criteria should I use?

You know you best. What might seem trivial to others could make a significant difference to you.

If it is important to you, it is important.

To determine whether or not you should include a college on your list, first think about how you would describe your perfect college. Your criteria may be different from what your friends think makes the best college and that is absolutely fine. This is your journey and yours alone.

Below are some aspects of college that have come up in my work with students:

Food. Do you live to eat or do you eat to live? Do you need a lot of choices in terms of the variety of food offered? Do you have particular dietary needs or preferences and if so, can the colleges you are considering meet them? Consider how far the dining halls are from the dorms and if you would prefer in-dorm dining options. Are flexible meal plans important to you in terms of the number of meals per week they offer? Think about how you like to eat. Do you often get the munchies at midnight? If so, find out if the colleges you are considering offer long hours and snacks in the evening.

Architecture. Does it matter to you what a college looks like or don’t you care? If it does, how would you describe the perfect college in terms of its appearance? A student once told me that she didn’t like a particular campus because it had too many arches and her friend said he didn’t like all the brick buildings at a college he visited. Another student said the college he visited was too picturesque for him. Both students were embarrassed to bring up these points, but I told them that any reason they had for liking or not liking a college was completely valid.

Recreational facilities. Are state of the art buildings and equipment important to ensure your physical and mental well-being? What used to be considered an amenity is now an essential aspect of the college search for many students. There is even a website that ranks colleges based on their rec centers. Is year round access to a pool important to you? If you play particular sports such as racquetball or squash, make sure there are courts. Find out if the colleges you are considering offer fitness classes in your areas of interest, such as conditioning or Zumba.

Career planning services. Although it may seem a long way off, the college years fly by quickly and unless you are going to graduate school immediately after college, you will be looking for a job before you know it. As you investigate colleges, find out what they offer in terms of career planning. How can you engage with the career planning office as a first-year student? Are they able to connect you with alumni in terms of internships and jobs after college? How can they help you explore different career paths and discover your career aspirations? Do they offer workshops on networking and informational interviews? What can they do to help you hone your job search skills? Can you access their services after you graduate? Do they know the top ten skills employers look for?


I really loved all the schools we visited, and plan on applying to all four of them. I could see myself being happy attending any of them, they all seem like fantastic options for me. Thank you so much for directing me to these colleges which seem like great matches for me in terms of what I want in a school.