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Today, higher education is more important than it has ever been.

Given the increasing competitiveness in every field, securing a good job can be quite difficult. The demand for quality candidates, makes higher education essential. This, in turn, has resulted in students aiming to get into the best universities that would give them their best chance of securing a great job.

Perhaps the most important goal akin to getting into a great college is finding one.

There are a number of factors for students to consider while selecting a college. While these factors may vary for each student, here is a list of the most common factors to consider while deciding which colleges are best suited for you.

#1 Programs available: Not every university may have the type of program you want to pursue, so it is best to read up on the programs offered by every university. You may also find that you like certain aspects of a program offered at one university, which may not be offered at another. The Admissions Office of universities would be your best bet to learn more about the program, the curriculum, credit requirements and the degree earned upon completing the course. Doing your research on the curriculum is highly recommended as some universities will offer a lot more freedom in the form of a more open curriculum, while others will expect you to take up certain courses.

#2 Accreditation: Applying to an accredited university will make your life that much better. Not only will degrees earned from accredited universities have more value in the eyes of employers, but they will also be of more value if you plan to study further. In case you wish to transfer credits from one university to another, chances are that your new university will only accept these credit scores from an accredited university.

#3 Cost: An important factor to consider before selecting universities, is whether you can afford them. Apart from tuition, you will also have living expenses to consider. All in all, you should have sufficient finances to sustain you through the course of your degree. While cost of living would depend mostly on the location of the university – universities situated in big cities will often have higher living expenses – course fees would depend on other factors such as the duration of the course or whether the university is private or public. Tuition at public universities is usually a lot lower.

#4 Course flexibility: While not the most important factor for international students, this is something many students look for, all the same. This factor is usually considered when students need to work at a regular job and prefer to pursue a part-time degree.

#5 Location of the university: Based on whether you’re a city person or prefer a small town, you can select a university that provides you with an environment you’re comfortable in. The university’s location also matters when it is time to look into companies close by for internships during the course of your program or jobs after you graduate.

#6 Admission rate: A university’s admission rate reveals a lot about the kind of students it accepts and your chances of getting in. Universities with a high acceptance rate generally tend to take in students with more varied academic backgrounds. Those with low acceptance rates usually accept only students with the strongest profiles.

#7 Admission criteria: This is a good way to figure out where you stand in terms of getting admitted to the university based on your GPA, standardized test scores and prerequisite course requirements. Most universities post the standardized test scores and GPAs of former students, so this will help you better understand your chances of getting in at various universities.

#8 Graduation rate: A university’s graduate rate gives you an idea about the number of students that graduate from their university, thereby giving you a glimpse of your own possibilities at this university.

#9 Campus facilities: You should look into the campus facilities of each university, especially those facilities that would either help with your program or be of use to you in some other way. These facilities could range from well-equipped laboratories to well-stocked libraries or just sports facilities or dining options that suit your specific needs.

#10 Academic support: Some universities have a separate building for academic support staff and offer resources that can be useful to you. It is always a good idea to find out which of these universities provide resources that can benefit you during the course of your program at the university.

#11 Faculty to student ratio: This is an important aspect to consider as this would significantly influence the kind of instruction you wish to receive. Universities generally post information about the class sizes of various programs. Larger classes will make it harder for you to interact with professors, which also makes it difficult to receive more individualized attention, if you need it. Small class sizes make discussions possible, so if you like to learn by discussing subjects, this is a great option for you. It is also worth noting that class size almost never depends on the size of the university, which appears to be a common misconception among students.

#12 Financial aid: There are numerous opportunities for students to apply for financial aid today. Options include federal or state grants, scholarships and student loans. As universities generally publish information regarding the percentage of students who have received aid, you should have a fair idea about your chances of receiving aid by browsing through these figures for various universities.

#13 Practical training: Some universities provide opportunities for their students to receive hand’s on training by including these in the curriculum. This is usually done through internships, practicum and lab work.

#14 Retention rate: This is a pretty accurate indicator of student satisfaction at prospective universities. Universities with higher retention rates indicate that more students return to the university, which also means there is a higher chance that they are happy at that university.

#15 University size: While not one of the most conventional factors that students consider when selecting their university, this does matter as some students are happier to be a part of large lively universities, while others are happier in smaller universities where they will be surrounded by more friendly faces and less likely to be overwhelmed.

#16 Job placements: Some universities are more involved with helping their students get placed while others are not. In addition to this, programs from some universities are valued more than the same program from other universities. In order to do your research, you can just check the university’s website or get in touch with the alumni of that particular university via forums or college fairs, etc.

#17 Career services: Many universities provide career services  for their students and it is important to find a university with an active career services office. Counseling, interview preparation, resume reviews and job hunting, are just some of the very useful services this office will provide.

#18 Professors and department of study: The caliber of your professor is perhaps the strongest indicator of the quality of education you will receive. Do your research on the professor’s background and areas of interest. Former students are rarely shy about expressing their views and you will find out more about the professor’s teaching style, how approachable or helpful they are, and so on, by reading these reviews. In addition to professors, you also need to do your research on the department. Some universities may have excellent departments even if their university isn’t in the global top 20 or and Ivy League college. Make sure the department will cater to your needs and help you get where you want to go.

#19 Dining options: Make sure you do your research on the meal plans offered at each university. Most universities will cater to all sorts of dietary requirements, but it is always useful to know what is available.

#20 Extracurricular activities: Universities with a larger number of extracurricular options are more likely to have the activity that you are interested in.

#21 Safety: While most universities will place a lot of emphasis on ensuring that their university is extremely safe for their students, it cannot hurt to check up on their safety measures.

#22 Alumni: These days, networking is essential to further your career. A school with a large alumni base will help you connect with alumni, thereby providing you with a range of opportunities.