While getting the right education and training will help you get a better-paying job, going to college or career school is a big investment in time, money, and effort. Make sure to take your time and research your options.
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Comparing Colleges brochure—Highlights tools and resources to help students compare colleges.
There is a wide array of schools available for higher education. Options include two- and four-year colleges and universities, vocational, trade, and career schools, online schools, and graduate schools.
Remember that financial assistance programs and requirements can vary from school to school. Plus, not all colleges and career schools participate in the federal student aid programs. Always check with your school to find out what financial aid is available there.
Understanding your career goals and options (and their earning potential) will help you find a college or career school that meets your needs. The Career Search will help you match your skills and interests with potential careers.
The U.S. Department of Education’s college search tool, College Navigator, to find colleges and career schools that may fit your needs. You can search for schools by location, degrees offered, programs/majors, tuition and fees, setting, size, and much more. The search results for each school will give you a wide range of information, such as
- general school information;
- tuition, fees, and estimated student expenses;
- types of financial aid provided;
- net price;
- admissions requirements;
- retention and graduation rates;
- campus security statistics; and
- default rates for students with student loans.
College Navigator allows you to compare schools, save your session, and export your results into a spreadsheet.
Choosing the right school involves a variety of factors including your interests, career goals, and financial situation, as well as the school’s cost, size and location, and admissions requirements.
College fairs give you the chance to talk to representatives from multiple colleges and career schools. You can learn about various schools, and their representatives will answer your questions. If you’re in high school, ask your school counselor about college fairs in your area. You can also go online to find the National Association for College Admission Counseling college fairs or National Scholarship Service college fairs.
To help you narrow down your college or career school options, try the following:
- Check out the school’s website. Lots of colleges and career schools now offer virtual tours, so you can still “see” the campus, even if you can’t visit in person. You also can get information about programs and classes offered at the school, find out if the school participates in federal financial aid, and learn about campus life.
- A great way to get a feel for a school is to contact the school and schedule a visit, preferably while classes are in session. Make sure you’re comfortable with the facilities, equipment, teachers, and students. Be sure to bring a list of questions to ask. Our Things to Consider page will help you identify questions to ask.
- Talk with students who currently attend or have attended the school you’re considering to get their opinion of the school. If you are visiting a school in person, ask the campus tour coordinator if you can talk students who are currently attending the school. If you can’t visit the school in person, contact the admissions office staff to see if they can connect you with current students or alumni.
- If you’re in high school, ask your school counselor what information he or she has about the schools that interest you.
- Visit your state higher education agency’s website to learn more about colleges and universities in your state.
Your education is a major investment, so find out as much information as you can—before you enroll. And because each school may offer different financial aid packages, you should consider applying to more than one school.