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Comparing Colleges or Training Programs
With 4,000+ colleges—plus additional training programs—in the U.S. to choose from, how do you find the ones that fit you best? The trick is comparing colleges or training programs based on how each meets your academic, social, and financial needs.
Tips for Comparing Colleges or Training Programs
Start by creating a “wish list” based on the factors listed below. Just remember: There is no “right” list. Each student’s needs and goals are different—and that’s okay. So, when comparing colleges or training programs, be sure to focus on what matters most to you and your family’s situation.
TYPE OF SCHOOL: What kind of school best fits your education and career goals—and your family’s financial situation? You can choose from:
- Training and certificate programs that offer training and hands-on experience related to specific jobs
- 2-year and community colleges that offer associate degrees as well as general education courses that can be transferred to a 4-year college
- 4-year colleges and universities that offer a range of degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels
- Graduate schools that offer specialized post-college training for those who have completed a bachelor’s degree
- What kind of person are you—and what kind of learning and work environment might fit you best?
- What "majors" (or particular subject areas) interest you most—and which colleges offer these majors?
- Do you want the opportunity to do an internship, study abroad, or design your own major?
- Do you want to be 1 among thousands or part of a smaller community?
- Will you learn best in big lecture halls or small, intimate classes with hands-on learning experiences?
- Do you want close advisement from professors—or are you comfortable finding your own way?
- Do you want a large variety of majors, courses, activities, and other options or a close-knit community focused around common themes?
- Are state-of-the-art research facilities or top-notch sports programs very important to you?
- Do you want to stay close to home at a Vermont college or university or adventure far away?
- Would you prefer to live in a city, the suburbs, or the countryside?
- How do you compare academically to the school’s current students (look for GPA, class rank, SAT/ACT scores)?
- What are your chances of getting into the school when you apply (look for percentage of applicants accepted)?
- What are your goals—to stand out as a star student, be among academic equals, or push yourself to rise to new challenges?
CAMPUS ATMOSPHERE, STUDENT LIFE & DIVERSITY:
- How do students at the school spend their time?
- Do students stay on campus on the weekends?
- What opportunities and activities are available?
- How diverse is the student body?
- Can you imagine yourself as a student there?
COST & AFFORDABILITY: What will the school cost you—and can you afford it?
When comparing colleges based on cost, it’s important to focus not on the school’s “sticker price” but on the actual price you will pay to attend. This is called your “net price”—and it’s determined by taking into account your specific financial situation and any grants or scholarships the school can offer to you. Learn more about how financial aid works >
Helpful Resources for Comparing Colleges
COLLEGE COMPARISON CHART
Download our easy-to-use college comparison chart to create your personal wish list.
Use the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator website to search for colleges by type, major, size, location, selectivity, cost, and more.
TIP: Leave search fields that aren’t important to you blank. This will result in a larger list of schools that match the factors that are most important to you.