Freshman

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High school seems like it will last forever, but college is just around the corner. As you prepare to make the big jump, you may want to begin considering how different schools stack up in six key areas. Think of them as the Six Secrets of College Choice.

Areas of Study
It may sound like a no-brainer, but choose a school offering the subject matter that interests you. Also remember that most students change majors along the way. It's a safe bet to consider schools that offer a broad foundation of courses in literature, philosophy, history, political science and mathematics (the "liberal arts"). These courses discuss how to think about the world and are essential to any quality education.

Location
Make sure the school you choose is in a place that offers activities you enjoy and diverse job opportunities in case you stay there after you graduate.

Size
Explore the advantages of different-sized schools and consider where you fit in best.

Entrance requirements
Be realistic about your abilities, and know that most selective schools offer challenging programs for above-average students who show a range of abilities.

Environment
Visit the schools on your short list and interact with current students to get a true feel for each school's atmosphere. Is there social and co-curricular involvement? Do most students live on campus or off? How good are the student services?

Cost
Don't rule out any school based on its "sticker price." Most have significant financial aid opportunities that can cut the cost by as much as half for many students.