October 27, 2010 | Suzanne Shaffer | Leave a comment There are over 4000 four-year colleges in the United States and another 1900 community colleges. Choosing a college can be overwhelming if you don’t narrow down the choices with this simple list of basic criteria. Once you’ve narrowed it down, you can get more selective and specific with your final choices. College Choices Your study preferencesâ€”Are they more comfortable in a structured class or do you excel doing independent study? Do you require academic challenge or prefer in-class time with little or no additional study? Moneyâ€”Your budget plays a huge factor in the decision process. If your budget is tight, will you consider student loans? And if so, will an expensive private university be worth the debt? Sizeâ€”Do you want small class size or does it matter? Does being part of a large student body appeal to you or would they prefer a small college atmosphere? Locationâ€”Do you want to go away to college or stay close by so you can live at home? Are you looking for a cultural experience that a big city offers or a down home experience provided by a small town college? Extracurricularsâ€”Are you set on joining a sorority or a fraternity? Are these offered at the colleges you are considering? Are there other activities that you feel are crucial to having a positive college experience (i.e. working on a campus newspaper, participating in intramural sports, studying abroad)? Academicsâ€”Is there a specific major you are interested in or will a liberal arts degree do? Not every university offers the same academic disciplines. Career focusâ€”Do you want to study the culinary arts or fashion design? Consider a school that offers these types of specialized degrees. Sportsâ€”Does the school have a huge sports program or do sports play little impact in your decision? Competitive vs Non-competitiveâ€”Do you have the resume that will ensure acceptance in a competitive college like Harvard? Or do you have a strong academic showing that would send you to the top of the list at a non-competitive college and qualify you for a full scholarship? Specialized programsâ€”Do you want to work in the stock market? Does the school offer a trading room? What about internships, undergraduate research, service learning, and even specialized senior capstone projects (integrating and synthesizing what you have learned). Which of these 10 criteria is most important to you? Would these help you in narrowing down your choices? Tell us in the comments below!