So you’re planning on going to college or have already been accepted to a few; well now comes either the process of deciding what kind of college you want to go to or deciding which college to attend. Both are done pretty much the same; you want to look for size, male to female ratio, majors and minors, appearance and location, Greek life, financial aid and cost, safety, sports, clubs and extracurricular opportunities, research opportunities, and of course academics standards.
Colleges are divided into 2 categories, public and private. Public schools are pretty identical to a high school public school; they’re large, cheaper, but aren’t always considered the best academically. This isn’t always necessarily true, there are many public colleges that have high academic excellence standards, or their academics can be improved by joining an honors program. They also accept more kids from the state that pays for them, i.e. they have to meet a certain quota on kids accepted from that state, and then they can accept out of state students. But even out-of-state is cheaper at public schools then paying for a private college in state. They tend to have a large Greek life, a larger campus, and many clubs and extracurricular activities. The large campus can be an impact on safety, because there are more kids there may not be an escort service or could be situated in an unpleasant area of town. The research opportunities are not as vast a private college, and the class sizes can be upwards of 100 kids on occasion. Sports can be a large factor in public vs. private, because they have a larger pool of kids to choose from, they generally have better sports teams or larger programs, but this is not always true. Socially, there are many more students to meet and be friends with, and you may go a whole day without even seeing someone you know.
Private colleges on the other hand, are small, expensive, but very academically focused. They are normally more selective but do not focus on kids from one state, they offer a narrower category of majors occasionally, have a smaller Greek life or none at all, and have a smaller campus. Private schools can cost up into the 40k a year bracket and tear a hole in your wallet, but many high level colleges can offer huge financial aid packages based on merit or athletics even. Population size normally stays in the low thousands like 1-7k, compared to that of public schools which normally hit the high double-digit thousands like 10-30k students. The small size of population gives you two things: a low student to teacher ratio for kids who like one-on-one learning, and a campus where you can still meet people, but also see a lot of your friends on campus. The small campus allows for a protective environment with escort services, emergency phones around campus, and secure dorms that may be preferred to a large spread out public campus. Also many private colleges will have specific values or affiliations with a religion; one college may have a large population of conservative students, or another will be a center for change and progression. Sports programs in private schools always emphasize academics first, and they will only recruit you if you can meet their academic standards too. A small environment with highly qualified teachers also can provide great research, internship, and job opportunities for students over the summer.
Overall it’s your choice; big or small, is Greek life a necessity, do you need financial aid or a low cost school, is study abroad important to you, how much of a social scene do you want, and do they have your major and meet your academic standards? But I can’t stress this enough: do research, meet with friends who graduated or are attending, ask your guidance counselor, talk with teachers, and most importantly: visit the college. If you can’t afford to visit, do virtual tours, talk with current student, look into the campus. You’re going to be living here for at least one year, if not four, so make sure you can be comfortable on the campus and town it’s located in!