Ch 3: Characteristics of Colleges

About This Chapter

In the search for the perfect college, there are several factors to consider. These short video lessons provide guidance in the potentially stressful process of choosing a college, and the lessons can help you make decisions about dilemmas such as location, financial aid availability and extracurricular offerings.

Characteristics of Colleges: Chapter Summary

Suppose you live in New York, but were accepted to your dream college in Chicago. Would you move to Chicago or just find a school in New York? Major decisions like this, along with others, are part of the college selection process. The information ahead can help you understand the admissions criteria and financial aid options, among other topics. This chapter includes:

Choosing a location

Among the fundamental decisions to make when choosing a college is its location. Selecting a location may be based on your need or want to be close to your hometown or your desire to have the college experience away. This lesson outlines the pros and cons of choosing an away or home college.

Public vs. private colleges

The fundamental difference between public and private colleges is the source of school funding. Other factors to consider when choosing a private or public school may include class size and extracurricular activities. Learn more about the differences in this lesson.

Assessing student success rankings

Knowing a school's student success rates tells two important things. The attrition rate shows you how many students leave the school before graduation, which could be because of overall dissatisfaction or another factor. The graduation rate is the percentage of students who actually start and finish their studies from the same school. Find out more about these percentages and their importance.

Researching the school's financial health

This topic involves a bit of research, but can be beneficial in the long run. Learn how to spot warning signs, such as the suspension of a school's accreditation and the loss of scholarships and grants.

Small vs. large colleges

Choosing to attend a small or large college is primarily a personal preference. Similar to location, this consideration depends on your level of comfort. Explore some of the advantages and disadvantages of attending a small or large school.

For-profit vs. non-profit colleges

You will encounter both non-profit and for-profit colleges in your search. For-profit schools often offer vocational programs and focus on earning a profit from student enrollment. Whereas, non-profit schools offer comprehensive academic programs with general education classes. The guidance counselors in this lesson can explain more of the differences.


A school's accreditation status is important and can affect your financial aid options, credit transfers and postgraduate employment. We'll show you the relationship between accreditation and your college selection process.

Determining college costs

This lesson breaks down the many costs to attend college. You'll review topics like room and board, fees, tuition, books and transportation.

Ways to qualify for financial and scholarships

Given the cost of college, most prospective college students need financial assistance to pay for school. Explore the financial aid options, including loans, grants and scholarships, and the application process.

Considering student activities

Student activities is an important characteristic of college life. Review some of the student-related activities to look for when selecting a college.

Deciding important student services

The types of services available to students can range from mental health options to career guidance. We'll present a list of common services provided by most colleges.

Evaluating the college admissions criteria

The basic process of getting into college involves completing an application for admission and getting notification of acceptance. The prerequisites and application requirements can typically be found on the admissions office website. Let our guidance counselors explain other items to be submitted, such as standardized test scores, fees and high school transcripts.

Finding colleges that take alternative transfer credits

There are several ways to earn college transfer credits. An overview of the transfer credit process and methods of securing credits is outlined in this lesson.

13 Lessons in Chapter 3: Characteristics of Colleges
Test your knowledge with a 30-question chapter practice test
How to Choose a College Location

1. How to Choose a College Location

When choosing a college, as with real estate, location matters. But how does location impact a student's choice? In this lesson, we will examine the benefits of different locations, including home and away colleges and urban and rural colleges.

Tips for Comparing Public and Private Colleges

2. Tips for Comparing Public and Private Colleges

Students are often faced with the choice of whether to attend a private or a public university. How can you decide? Watch this lesson to find out more about how to compare private and public colleges and what resources they have.

Evaluating Student Success Rates

3. Evaluating Student Success Rates

How do you know if a college is a good one for you? One way to evaluate colleges is based on their graduation and attrition rates. Watch this lesson to find out what these can tell you about the colleges you are considering.

How Can You Find the Financial Health of a College?

4. How Can You Find the Financial Health of a College?

Colleges vary in how healthy their finances are. In this lesson, we'll explore the financial health of various colleges, including why it is important to prospective students and warning signs that a college might be in financial trouble.

Comparing Large and Small Colleges

5. Comparing Large and Small Colleges

Choosing a college can feel overwhelming. There are many elements that you can use to evaluate colleges. In this lesson, we'll look at how the size of a college can influence its school culture, and how to know what size school is right for you.

For-Profit and Not-For-Profit Colleges

6. For-Profit and Not-For-Profit Colleges

Students have a lot of options when it comes to colleges. But which ones are the best choices? In this lesson, we'll examine the difference between for-profit and not-for-profit colleges and how to know which is the right choice for you.

What is Accreditation?

7. What is Accreditation?

Choosing a college can have a lasting impact on a person's life. In this lesson, we'll examine accredited colleges, including why accreditation is important, the drawbacks of attending an unaccredited college, and the types of accreditation.

Finding the Real Cost of College: Tips for Students

8. Finding the Real Cost of College: Tips for Students

Many students think tuition is the only cost they need to worry about when calculating their college budget, but the cost of college goes beyond tuition. This lesson will help you learn to estimate your financial needs when planning your education.

Do I Qualify for Scholarships or Financial Aid?

9. Do I Qualify for Scholarships or Financial Aid?

Financial aid vocabulary and procedures can be difficult to understand. This lesson will help by reviewing the different types of financial aid, how you can determine eligibility and how to maximize your financial aid possibilities.

Which Student Life Options Should I Consider?

10. Which Student Life Options Should I Consider?

Though it shouldn't be the first consideration in the decision where to go to college, student life is still an important part of deciding on a college. Watch this lesson to find out what student life encompasses and how to evaluate a college's student life options.

Decide Which Student Services Are Important for You

11. Decide Which Student Services Are Important for You

Learn about the different types of student services you can find at college. Decide what's important to you to help you narrow down your college choices.

How To Evaluate College Admissions Criteria

12. How To Evaluate College Admissions Criteria

Applying for college can be stressful and confusing. In this lesson, we'll go over the college admissions process, including looking at where students can go for answers about specific admissions questions and what colleges look for.

Find Colleges That Accept Alternative Transfer Credits

13. Find Colleges That Accept Alternative Transfer Credits

Transfer credits are one way that students can save money on college expenses. In this lesson, we'll look at alternative ways to earn transfer credits and how to find out whether a school accepts alternative transfer credits.

Chapter Practice Exam
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Practice Final Exam
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