Choosing a college is a big decision and one you won’t want to leave until the last minute. Start your decision making early and take the time necessary to get your applications in and financial aid completed in time so you can fairly compare your top schools.

There’s no one “right way” to go about making your college selection, but there are five very important elements you’ll want to take into consideration.

What Kind Of College?

Colleges and their offerings vary and one of the ways in which you can narrow down your college search is by deciding what KIND of college you want to attend. Do you want to attend a two-year college or is a four-year college necessary to acomplish your educational goals?

You can also narrow down your college search by choosing to attend either a public or private college. Public colleges generally having lower tuition rates than private colleges.

Where Is The College?

One of the main priorities in selecting the best college for you is deciding how far you want to be away from home. Would you like to live at home with your parents to save money? Or do you want to stretch your wings?

Also consider resident and non-resident tuition rates when considering location. If you decide to attend a college in a neighboring state, it could affect your cost.

What’s The College Culture Like?

What’s your idea of the perfect college experience? You might have a good idea already of the kind of environment you want to be in but it’s still a good idea to visit different sized campuses to experience each firsthand.

A few other points to keep in mind when evaluating a college are average class size, accessibility to faculty and advisers, student body diversity, student clubs and activities.

How much Does The College Cost?

Perhaps nothing weighs more heavily in the decision to select one college over another than cost. While borrowing money has become a reality for most people seeking a higher ed degree, savvy students try to limit the amount of debt they incur and make decisions that will help them keep their college spending in check.

All students should apply for financial aid whether you feel you are qualified to receive aid or not since most students get some form of assistance from the government or their college.

What Academic Majors And Programs Does The College Have?

Some students know what they plan to major in before they start college, but many are still in the process of investigating different options. If you plan on a specific major, make sure your intended college offers that major or has a transfer program to forward credits toward your major at another institution.

A few questions that may help you narrow down your major include:  What are your favorite classes in school? What scholastic areas are you especially good at? Do you like to work as part of a team or do you prefer to work independently?

Using these five points to compare and evaluate the colleges you are considering should help you find the institution that’s the perfect fit for you.