Applying for College: Choosing a College

It’s never too early to start researching colleges that interest you. As a talented low-income student, we particularly encourage you to look closely at top-ranked colleges with good financial aid. These colleges will be able to support you, academically and financially, through college.

Is the College Affordable?

One of the biggest concerns for low-income students is determining the quality of financial aid over four years. How can you determine which colleges will support you financially for four years and which ones will not?

All QuestBridge college partners have financial aid policies among the best in the country; they each guarantee to meet 100% of demonstrated financial need. However, you should also apply to target and safety colleges outside of QuestBridge. For these schools, ask the following questions:

  • Does the college guarantee to meet 100% of demonstrated financial need?
  • Does the college practice “need-blind” admissions?
  • Will financial aid stay the same for all four years?

For more information on paying for college, please see our Paying for College section. You can also fill out a Net Price Calculator for individual colleges to see an estimate of your financial aid package if you were to attend.

Is the College a Good Fit?

As a low-income student, it’s especially important to think critically about which college will provide you with tools to succeed in life. Whether you choose to work right after college, or pursue graduate studies immediately, consider what undergraduate school will give you the best tools to build your future.

Besides looking at the academic fit of a college and the strength of its financial aid, there are also considerations of personality and lifestyle. Choosing a college that facilitates your personal happiness will greatly enhance your undergraduate years. Aspects to consider include, but are not limited to:

Academic “Fit”

Whether or not you’ve decided what to study, it’s important to attend a college that suits your general range of potential interests, your personality, and even your relative academic strength. When looking at colleges, ask yourself:

  • Does the school have programs that fit my current and/or potential academic interests? Keep in mind that top colleges will often offer equally excellent programs in popular areas of study.
  • Does my learning style match that of the school? Remember to look at the student to teacher ratio, academic requirements, research opportunities, and accessibility of professors.
  • Is the school size one that I will be comfortable with? Research the size of the undergraduate population, of the program/school you plan to study in, and of the average classroom.

Social “Fit”

The social scene on college campuses can vary widely. If you aren’t able to visit the campus in person, use admissions websites, student blogs, and talk to real students to get a sense for the campus personality. Then, when you have enough information, ask yourself:

  • Does the campus have a diverse community that I will be comfortable in? There are many kind of diversity you can consider, including: ethnic, gender, socioeconomic, geographic, etc.
  • Does the school offer non-academic opportunities that interest me? Keep in mind that many top colleges will offer a wide range of excellent extracurricular options.
  • What are students doing outside of the classroom? Is that the sort of social life that appeals to me? Remember to look into on-campus vs. off-campus social life, as well as the influence of Greek organizations and athletics on campus culture.

Geographic “Fit”

One of the most exciting parts of the college search is the opportunity to think about where you want to live for the next four years. To determine the location that is the best fit for you, ask yourself:

  • Is the campus located in a setting that appeals to me? Urban, suburban, and small town locations each have their pros and cons. If possible, visit colleges on both sides of the spectrum.
  • How close/far do I want to be from home? Being closer will allow you to travel home more often; being further away will give you a more independent college experience.
  • What other aspects of the campus location will impact my experience? A few things to consider include: regional culture, proximity to cities and/or other opportunities, and weather.

Taking time to carefully reflect on the questions above will ensure that you apply to colleges that are truly a good “fit” for you.

Researching & Ranking Colleges

Researching colleges to find your college fit is an important part of the National College Match, especially since there are 38 great college partners to choose from.