By Randi Mazzella When it comes to figuring out how to choose a college, students often focus their research on academic requirements, rankings, and financial aid. However, there are several crucial aspects of the college selection process that tend to go unnoticed. In this article, we will delve into seven often-overlooked factors that are vital when making the decision on how to choose a college that best suits your needs. 1. Distance: Beyond Driving Many students believe that proximity to home is the most important factor. However, colleges situated in major cities offer convenient flight connections to various destinations nationwide, making air travel a faster and easier option compared to other modes of transportation. By conducting thorough research and planning ahead, you may discover affordable flight options that surprise you. 2. Changing Majors: Embrace Flexibility Choosing a college solely based on a specific major can be limiting. Students frequently change their academic interests, particularly during the first two years when they take introductory courses. In fact, approximately 80 percent of college students in the United States switch majors at least once. To accommodate potential shifts in your academic focus, it is advisable to select a college that offers strong academic programs across a variety of disciplines. 3. Life Beyond Campus: Explore the Surroundings Exploring the town or city where your college is located is an integral part of the college experience. For example, if you attend Tulane University, you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of New Orleans, participating in events like Mardi Gras and exploring the renowned French Quarter. However, proximity to a major city does not guarantee regular student visits. To gain insights into the student experience, utilize our College Search feature, which provides reviews and ratings from current students. 4. Food: Satisfying Your Plate Most colleges require freshmen and sophomores to be on a meal plan, which can become expensive if you dislike the food options provided. Unsatisfactory meal plans often lead to a reliance on cheap junk food and late-night binging. The quality and variety of food available on campus vary significantly among colleges. While some schools offer multiple dining halls and allow students to use their meal plans at various on-campus cafes, shops, and even off-campus restaurants, others may have limited options. Utilize our College Search tool to explore campus food ratings or engage with current students to inquire about their dining experiences. Whenever possible, consider having a meal on campus to gauge your satisfaction. 5. Weather: The Climate Factor When my daughter visited a college in August, she was captivated by the idea of studying on a beach located on campus. However, she soon realized that the region experienced temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower by November. The reality was that she would be bundled up in a parka rather than lounging in a bikini. Weather plays a crucial role in college life as students spend considerable time walking to and from classes and meals. If you are averse to cold climates, regions like the Northeast may not be the most suitable choices for your college education. 6. Alumni Connections: Building Your Network While most colleges provide career centers to assist students with job searches after graduation, the strength of alumni networks can significantly impact your future career prospects. Robust alumni organizations offer valuable support not only immediately after graduation but throughout your professional journey. To identify colleges with exceptional alumni networks, refer to our resource on The 50 Most Powerful Alumni Networks. 7. School spirit If you desire a lifelong connection to your alma mater, choose a college with a vibrant school spirit. Some colleges boast alumni who continue to support their institution long after graduation, irrespective of their participation in sports or attendance at games. Many individuals develop strong allegiances to their colleges based on the cherished memories they create. Consider this factor if you value a sense of community and enduring school pride. Choosing the right college requires careful consideration, as every individual has unique needs and preferences. To find the ideal institution for you, utilize our College Match tool, which helps match your preferences with colleges that align with your priorities. Remember, beyond academics and financial considerations, these often-overlooked factors can greatly influence your college experience and shape your future. About the author Randi is a freelance writer and mother of three. She has written extensively about teen life and the college admissions process. Her work has appeared online and in print publications including TeenLife, Your Teen, Raising Teens, About.com, and Grown and Flown. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.