College search: finding your best school
Before you choose: Look for learning programsOf some 1.5 million high school students who took the ACT and graduated in 2009, only 23 percent met all four ACT College Readiness Benchmark Scores, in English, math, reading and science. Students who do poorly in academics their first year in college often quit, according to an ACT report, "The Role of Academic and Non-Academic Factors in Improving College Retention." Whether you think you'll need academic support, check to see if programs like writing and math centers and one-on-one tutoring are available for all students, and not just those academically challenged. Strong learning programs have proven to be the best student retention tools across the spectrum of vocational technical, two-year and four-year institutions, according to a 2009 ACT survey, "What Works in Student Retention?" On every campus, says Wes Habley, ACT's principal associate, "There are students who are under prepared compared to the average student on campus. Some of those students -- if they don't have the services available to them -- won't survive academically."
Recap: The problems
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 »