These are the schools I was trying to choose between about 4 years ago as a senior in high school.

So in light of the difficult decision, I thought I’d share some of my process in choosing a college. I’m going to list the major characteristics that I was looking for and how I decided what worked for me.

  1. Size: Most of the schools I was looking at were big schools, however, I was very worried about just becoming another number and not getting individual attention. This is why it’s always a good idea to ask for the faculty/student ratio, and whether classes are actually taught by faculty or by grad students. If this number is lower (like below 15:1), you’ll have a better chance to get to know your professors.
  2. Location: I grew up in a small town in Indiana, so I was drawn to go to college somewhere new, maybe… warm? Depending on what you’re looking for, you maybe want a quieter, college-y town, or a big city like Los Angeles. I could probably be happy in a town like Claremont where Harvey Mudd is, small, beautiful, and quite, but I wanted to come here to experience the LA culture, live in sunny SoCal, and have access to all the aerospace companies here.
  3. Engineering Reputation: Obviously, you’re going to want to choose a college with a good reputation for your chosen major. I was looking for technological vigor, but with plenty of support programs to ensure my success.
  4. Support Programs: I’m quite smart, but getting through 4 years of engineering is going to be difficult wherever you go. My greatest help has been the Society of Women Engineers. I’ve been a member since I was a freshman, and having a network of my peers is very beneficial. Also, I got my job through the company contacts with SWE. Other than that, programs that offer tutoring or professional development workshops can be very helpful.
  5. Extra Curriculars: I had plenty of other interests besides engineering coming into college, and I wanted to take advantage of the many opportunities here. My freshman year I joined Concert Choir, because I didn’t want to give up singing. Then last year, I joined the Equestrian Team, because I missed riding. Sure, sometimes balancing everything can be hard, but I’m glad to be able to keep doing the things that I love. Therefore, I was looking for a college and an engineering curriculum that had some flexibility.
  6. Cost: This is honestly one of the biggest factors for all of us I expect. I was so close to going to Purdue because I could never have afforded USC without a ton of loans. However, I was lucky enough to get a scholarship to USC!! Schools that give scholarships tend to have alot of smart, likable people who are happy to be there.
Check out college rankings if you’d like to learn some basic details. Then when you visit the school, talk to the students!