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What to Look For in a College Search

Hope Osborn is a sophomore psychology student from Milbank. She has included tips that she has learned from her recent college search.

Choosing where to go to college is a life-changing decision. It is often scary, stressful, and overwhelming. After all, there are over 5,300 colleges and universities in America alone. How does one narrow it down and find the best place for themselves? Here are some things to remember as you set out looking for your dream school.


You are going to college to learn, after all! If you have an idea of what you want to study, take a look at the school’s program. Is it accredited? How does their program compare to those of others? Ask your Admissions office if you can set up time to visit with professors or students from the program. If you are undecided, take a look at their exploratory studies programs or if the school has a good number of majors.

Career Opportunity and Development

This is similar to looking at the program. How are the school’s job placement rates, graduation rates and retention rates? Some schools, like SDSU, have an Office of Career Development. Do they have the opportunities you are looking for? Can you do research as an undergraduate at the school? Take a look at the opportunities the school has for the career path you’re pursuing.

Location and Community

Figure out what type of college town you’d like to live in. For example, Brookings is a small town. It has coffee shops, restaurants, movie theaters, museums, outdoor attractions and more. If you want to be far away from home, look at universities in nearby states or across the country. If you don’t want to be far from home, look local.

Another thing to consider is the size of the school itself. Would you prefer a really small, close-knit campus? Or a large campus with more than 50,000 students? What about somewhere in between? SDSU has 11,405 students and a 18.5:1 student to faculty ratio. While class sizes are small, it has the opportunities of a large university.


Price is always a big question when looking at attending college. Affordability is on the forefront of a lot of minds, students and parents. Do your research and see how much attending that university could cost. If you’ve already received offers from a few colleges, compare your scholarship offers AND their costs. Large scholarships from an institution with a higher cost doesn’t always mean the best value. SDSU offers the same tuition rate to South Dakota residents, children of alumni and students who students who qualify for the South Dakota Advantage tuition program. South Dakota Advantage applies to first-time and transfer students in Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Colorado. SDSU also has reciprocity with Minnesota, making it a competitive value for Minnesota students. Use our net price calculator to get an estimate.

Student Life

You’ll be doing more than just studying, of course! Take a look at the residence halls. Do you prefer suite-style room or traditional? Are you required to live on campus?

If you’re interested in sports, check out the college’s teams and intramurals. For example, SDSU is a NCAA Division I college, making game days an exciting event on campus. Look at the clubs that are active on campus, the events and performances that are held, or ask their Admissions office to visit with a student who participates in something you're interested in.

Relax, Get to Know Yourself, and Listen to Your Gut.

Easier said than done. Take a breath. In the end, listen to your gut.

Get to know yourself first before making big decisions; figure out what you want in a college and find one that provides that. Make a pro-con list for each school, so you can easily see how well it fits you. Don’t make this decision based on what your friends or family want—this will be your home for the next chapter of your life. The second you make decisions for yourself, the weight will lift off your shoulders.