College search: finding your best school
- Thirty-two percent of college students transfer at least once.
- Students who transfer take an average eight months longer to graduate.
- Only 66 percent of freshmen return to the same school the next year.
The college search is nearly over for many students this year. Acceptance packages start arriving in mailboxes around the country in February each year, forcing them to decide soon, "Which college is best for me?"
Unfortunately, they don't always make the right choice.
- 32 percent of college students transfer at least once before graduating, says the U.S. Department of Education.
- Only 66 percent of first-year college students returned to the same institution for their second year, according the most recent annual survey by ACT, the nonprofit organization that administers the college entrance exam by the same name.
- Students who transfer take eight months longer on average to graduate, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
With average yearly tuition at $26,273 and $7,020 for private and public four-year colleges, respectively, according to the College Board, ending a college search by identifying the best institutional fit can save students and parents major headaches and big bucks.
Here's a review of the more common problems that cause transfers or dropouts, followed by experts' tips on what students should look for -- after the initial college search -- when they decide which school to attend from those that accepted them.
School selectivity issues
-- An ACT survey shows 72 percent of students in "highly selective" schools -- those with the majority of freshmen in the top 10 percent of their high school class -- graduated within four years, as compared with 49 percent at "selective" schools; 31 percent at "traditional" schools and only 30 percent at "open enrollment" schools.
Solution: What to consider before you choose »