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Choosing a College

Factors to Consider

  • Cost
  • Average student loan debt
  • Location
  • Size of campus/total enrollment
  • Academic programs and majors
  • Diversity
  • Average ACT or SAT score
  • Graduation rates
  • Job placement rates

Much of this information is available on the U.S. Department of Education's College Scorecard.

Tips for Campus Visits

  • Make appointments with the financial aid and admissions offices. 
  • Prepare a list of questions ahead of time.
  • Take a tour, check out housing options and explore the surrounding area. 
  • Eat in a campus cafeteria and stay overnight in campus housing, if possible. 
  • Sit in on a class that interests you. 
  • Document your feelings after each visit. 

If you’re considering colleges that are too far away to visit, start with virtual campus tours. Check the college’s website or look into websites such as

How Many Places Should You Apply?

Put at least one of each of these schools on your list:

  • A “safety school,” where you’re confident you’ll be accepted. (In Iowa, community colleges are open-admission, which means they accept any student with a high school diploma or equivalent.) 
  • A “target school,” which you know is a solid possibility based on your GPA and test scores.
  • A “stretch school” (also called a “dream school” or “reach school”), which might have an extremely low admission rate or might simply be a school where your statistics are slightly below the usual range. Don’t sell yourself short. Outstanding essays or letters of recommendation might nudge you onto the “accepted” list.

Video: College Fit

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Choosing a Major

Factors to Consider

  • What types of study do you enjoy? Do you like working with data or with ideas? Do you prefer experimenting or reading? 
  • What particular classes do you enjoy? If no core classes spark your interest, explore other areas with your electives.
  • What are your abilities? What high school courses are your best subjects? These might overlap with your favorite classes, or they might not.
  • Why do you want this major? Are you really interested and excited about the subject matter, or are you choosing something based on what your friends or family want you to do?
  • What do you know about it? Look at the requirements and course descriptions. Talk to people who are currently studying this subject, or to graduates in this field. 
  • What is the career outlook? How many students in this major find employment in their field after they graduate? Could you improve your employability by studying in a related field?
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Choosing a Career

Consider Your Personality

Identify areas that interest you and activities you do well, then think about careers that could put those interests and strengths to use. 

Consider What Rewards Make You Happy

These could include helping others, contributing to your community, being creative, solving problems, earning a high salary, producing results, leading others, having a structured day or being recognized.

Take an Assessment

At Future Ready Iowa’s Career Coach, you can take an assessment to see what career best suits your personality. You can also research Iowa careers, what they pay, how many jobs are available and what education level they require.

Get Some Experience

Firsthand experience is the best way to find out if you’ll like an occupation. Start by talking to people in careers that interest you. Job shadowing, where you follow a professional on the job, lets you experience the types of work and tasks required. Internships or summer jobs can provide even more insight.

Check the Career Outlook

The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook can help you make decisions about your future career.

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