There’s no magic formula for choosing a college, because every student has a different set of preferences and priorities. But one thing all prospective students and their families should do is identify the factors of the college experience that they value most, whether it be campus location or affordability or student-to-faculty ratio. Figuring out what you want out of college is half the battle, and narrowing down the list of options is less daunting once you know what you’re looking for.
According to the University of Dayton, a top-tier Catholic research university in Ohio, prospective students and their families should consider the following key factors when making their college choice:
When considering cost, tuition, room and board are the most well-known expenses. However, it’s also important to be aware that tuition and fees at most colleges increase by 3% to 4% each year, and there can also be yearly fees for technology, labs, athletics and more. You’ll need textbooks too – ranging from $1,240 to $1,460 per year, according to the College Board. Once you have a baseline understanding of the expense, you’ll need to consider what financial aid schools might offer to make it more manageable. When evaluating a school’s affordability, consider:
● Does net tuition (the amount a family pays) stay the same each year? ● Are scholarships and grants guaranteed for all four years? Do the award values change? ● Are there any fees or surcharges? ● Is money provided for textbooks? ● Are study abroad scholarships available? ● What is the average cumulative student loan debt upon graduation?
At the University of Dayton, your scholarships and grants increase each year to offset any tuition increases, which means the tuition you pay will stay the same all four years. There are no fees or surcharges. Students can also receive up to $4,000 for their textbooks and may be eligible for a $3,000 study abroad scholarship.
The college experience encompasses many facets, but at its core it’s an opportunity to receive a great education that positions you for a successful career and life. In addition to ensuring a college has the major you want, you’ll want to make sure they have resources — such as academic advising, tutoring and supportive faculty — that will help you excel as a student. If you want to get a better idea of the academic experience at a school, look into how qualified the professors are, how involved they are in teaching undergraduate courses and the faculty-to-student ratio. The national average in 2017 was 14:1, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The larger the ratio, the more difficult it might become for professors to personally advise and mentor students. You should also investigate the number and variety of courses offered in the majors that interest you. And finally, make sure to check whether AP, IB, CLEP or transfer credits are accepted, so you can jump into your studies where you left off. When evaluating a school’s academics, consider:
● What is the class size and student-to-faculty ratio? ● What percent of classes are taught by faculty (vs. graduate assistants)? ● What percent of faculty have terminal degrees in their field? ● What academic advising is available? ● What academic and learning support resources are available? ● Are AP, IB, CLEP and transfer credits accepted?
At the University of Dayton, the average class size is 26, with a 14-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. Approximately 87% of full-time faculty have a terminal degree in their field, and the majority of classes are taught by faculty. All students are assigned an academic adviser to keep them on track for graduation, and a variety of learning support services are available on campus. The University accepts AP, IB and CLEP credit, and it provides free preliminary evaluations of transfer credit.
One benefit of attending college is the opportunity to accrue practical, real-world experience before entering the workforce. The correlation between relevant internships and employment after graduation is well-established: The Gallup-Purdue Index found that 55% of graduates from 2002-2016 had a job or internship as undergraduates that allowed them to apply what they were learning in the classroom. These graduates were two times more likely to acquire a good job immediately after graduation. Studying abroad is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to expand your horizons and gain global experiences that can be invaluable to your future career. If you’re interested, you’ll need to find out what kind of support colleges offer: In which countries can you study? How much will it cost and what kind of financial assistance is available? Will credits earned through study abroad programs transfer and count toward your degree? The ability to conduct research under the mentorship of a faculty member provides hands-on experience, enhances your critical thinking and can provide a valuable foundation for graduate studies or your career. When evaluating a school’s opportunities for real-world learning, consider:
● Do students graduate with practical, real-world experience? ● Can undergraduates conduct research? ● Are there global opportunities? ● Is assistance available to find and apply for internships and co-ops?
The University of Dayton believes students learn best by doing, so all students complete a capstone experience. Many students conduct research with faculty members, study abroad, or participate in robust internships or co-ops. The University is also included in The Princeton Review's top 25 colleges with the best internship opportunities.
For many students, college will serve as a home away from home, so campus life – which encompasses everything from school size to campus housing to retention rate to extracurricular activities – is an important factor to take into consideration. When it comes to campus size, consider what type of environment you thrive in. Do you prefer smaller classes and a community atmosphere, or do you want a wider range of academic and extracurricular options on a larger campus? The choice to live on or off campus is one that can change every year, depending on availability and cost. Be aware that not all schools guarantee on-campus housing for all four years. You’ll also want to find out if students stay on campus over the weekends – or if many of them go home. Whether you’re interested in exploring familiar passions or finding new ones, extracurricular activities can help you connect with new friends and cultivate skills you’ll use even after you graduate. Consider what types of clubs you’d like to join and then check to see if those types of opportunities are available at the schools you are considering. Of course, it’s also important that students are happy at their chosen school. One indication of this is a school’s retention rate. This is the percentage of first-year students who return for their second year; the higher the rate, the more satisfied the student body. The retention rate was 61.7% among students enrolled in college for the first-time in fall 2017, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. When evaluating a school’s campus life, consider:
● What is the size of the school? ● What percentage of undergraduates live on campus? Do students go home on weekends? ● Is housing available for all four years? ● How many student clubs and organizations are there? ● What’s the retention rate from the first to second year?
Approximately 11,500 undergraduate, graduate and law students call the University of Dayton “home,” and 85% of undergraduates live on campus or in the unique student neighborhood. The University’s retention rate is 89.4%, and it ranks 11th in the nation for “happiest students,” according to The Princeton Review.
Graduation may seem eons away. But a college’s track record getting students across the finish line is crucial to consider. Also keep in mind: while most students plan to graduate in four years, the reality is it can take longer – the National Center for Education Statistics reports that on average, only 60% of students earn their bachelor’s degree in six years. The graduate employment rate, on the other hand, illustrates how successful a college is at helping its students find jobs or enroll in graduate school. The full-time employment rate for all bachelor’s degree graduates in 2018 was 58.7%, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. When evaluating a school’s outcomes, consider:
● What’s the 6-year graduation rate? ● What career resources are available? ● What percentage of students are employed or in graduate school upon graduation?
The University of Dayton’s six-year graduation rate is 81.5%, which is far above the national average. In addition, 97% of students are employed, in grad school or in a full-time service program within six months of graduation; of those who are employed, 97% are in full-time positions. Robust career services are offered to all students and alumni, free of charge.