When it comes to finding a school that seems like the right fit for you, the search can feel endless. After all, how are you supposed to find a college that meets all of your academic, social, spiritual, emotional, athletic, and musical needs—all at once?!

The truth is, there will never be one school that makes the grade in every single one of these categories. You’ll always be able to find at least a couple things wrong with an institution—none are perfect! The good news is that even so, you can find a college or university that will give you a great education and make you happy. Hopefully that perspective will help you narrow your outlook into a more manageable list.

So where do you start? How can you identify the school that will help you thrive? Consider the following list, and then organize it based on priority. Your must-have desires should be at the top, and your “could-take-it-or-leave-it” options should fall towards the bottom.

  • athletic offerings
  • campus safety
  • campus setting (urban, suburban, small-town or rural)
  • diversity of student population
  • extracurricular organizations and events
  • faculty experience and expertise
  • financial aid availability and deadlines
  • geographic location
  • housing availability and cost
  • length, time and location of classes
  • number of students enrolled
  • percentage of graduates employed within one year
  • percentage of students who graduate
  • percentage of students who return the following year
  • programs of study, majors, and course selection
  • school facilities and equipment
  • school or program reputation
  • student-to-faculty ratio (class size)
  • support services (meals, counseling, job placement)
  • transportation availability and cost
  • tuition and fees


You want to choose a school that will help you work toward your goals. If you’re hoping to accomplish something specific career-wise, it’s important that the college you pick has the majors, classes, and certifications that you need to achieve your ambitions. However, if you’re more flexible on what you want to do in the future, consider picking a school with another one of your passions in mind. Do you love athletics? Is school spirit important to you? What about location or the rate of diversity among students?

If these questions feel overwhelming, start from the top. Zoom out from the details of college life, and consider this overarching question: why do you want to go to college? Think about your ultimate goal—even if you don’t know specifically what that will be. It can be as simple as, I’d like to hold a steady job someday. From there, ask yourself how a specific college will help you get to that goal, and identify some key aspects of a school that will get you to where you want to be.

After that, you can narrow down your likes and dislikes and try to identify your passions. Have you always liked math? That’s something! Do you attend all your city’s local theater performances? Write it down! Keep working through the things you enjoy until you have some key things listed that you know could potentially turn into areas of study or affect your life on campus. If you’re still unsure, visit your school guidance counselor! He or she exists to help you make the tough decision of where to attend college after you graduate.

Most importantly, keep an open mind as you search. Don’t shy away from a university simply because it’s out of your comfort zone. Pray about your options, seek wise counsel, and sooner or later, you’ll discover the right college for you. While it may feel like a long, arduous journey, it’s out there waiting for you!