Keys to Selecting a College

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Selecting a college is a big choice in life. We choose to attend college during multiple periods in our life.  We can choose to attend college when we leave high school, when we leave military service, choose to attend college during work / military service, or complete a degree after we have been working for a few years or want to change careers.  No matter the life stage, selecting a college is something that we do at least once or multiple times in our life.


The choice of selecting a college comes down to almost too many variables. Location, cost, where friends are going, and where did your parents or relatives go to college?  These criteria in addition to the major fields of study offered are only a handful of the many criteria that are examined when choosing an educational institution.


Contrary to the various marketing material that is racing around the internet, the best way to choose a college is to look at outcomes of a critical educational criteria when we select a college.


Choosing a College Tip #1 – Choose a Four Year Degree. A recent study from Georgetown University found the vast majority of jobs that have been created since the recession are in industries and occupations that require a four year degree. When you decide to go into higher education, make sure that a four year bachelor degree from an educational institution with good educational outcomes is on your list.


Choosing a College Tip #2 – Be Wary of the Marketing Material. The purpose of educational Marketing material is to make us choose the educational institution to attend.  The purpose of a higher education degree is to get the boost in income and career access that a degree in higher education offers, plus pay off any education debt that we took on to cover expenses.  In this way, you should be extremely wary of any higher education marketing material that does not include a comparison to other educational institutions. 


Choosing a College Tip #3 – Choose Based on Outcomes. There are ten key measures to look at when comparing a school against other choices.  These ten educational outcomes largely look at graduation rates, retention rates, bachelor degree completion rates, student loan pay back rates, tuition costs, and any institution caution flags or complaints against the school. 


  1. Total Undergraduate Enrollment       
  2. Retention Rate of All Students
  3. Graduation Rate of All Students        
  4. Average Salary of All Students           
  5. Loan Repayment Rate of All Students           
  6. Average Student Loan Debt
  7. Total Instate Tuition + Books 
  8. Military Train Credit Offered?
  9. Any Department of Veteran Affairs Caution Flags?
  10. Total Complaints Against Institution

Choosing a College Tip #4 – Assemble Outcome Criteria Together.   All of these metrics must be looked at in comparison to other educational institutions. For example, if you read that a school has a 65% retention rate that may appear good until you compare it to other schools that have an 80% retention rate. The goal with these ten metrics is to find the best possible combination of all of these metrics because that will help guarantee the best possible results. If you find there is an educational institution that IS NOT reporting all of these ten outcome metrics then be wary because 80% of educational institutions in the United States report all ten.


Choosing a College Tip #5 – Use the Department Of Veterans Affairs Resources. Determining the true value of your education while you are getting your education used to be extraordinarily difficult. Today, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) has created a higher education research tool that helps compare major education outcomes of schools. The “GI Bill Comparison Tool Source Data” located at Using the data available in the Comparison tool helps you make the best decision among all ten outcome metrics identified.


Choosing a College Tip #6 – Complete Your Degree in Four Years or Less. Selecting an educational institution based on the best combination of educational outcomes is a good step towards completing a bachelor degree.  However, if it takes six years to complete a degree vs. four years, you have not saved a lot and possibly taken on additional educational debt.  Complete your degree from a quality institution as fast as possible.


Completing an education and choosing an educational institution compared to the more than 3,000 available in the United States appears to take a lot of the mystery and fun out of the equation. However, unmanaged educational debt is fast becoming the number one financial problem of many American’s and their families.  An education should be a start to a great career that leaves you financially secure with several career options.  Choosing an education based on outcomes does just that.


About the blogger:


Chad is the author of two books: (1) Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and (2) Battlefield to Business Success.  Chad’s brand message is that organizations & individuals need to translate and apply military skills to business because they immediately produce results and are cost effective.  Chad is a retired US Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel with 20+ years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units.  He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States.  He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab.   Chad is an adjunct Lecturer of Marketing at Creighton University in Omaha, NE.  In addition to teaching, he is a mid-level marketing executive and has worked in marketing and sales roles for various companies, including General Electric, Comcast, and Manugistics.  He has been published in over 110 different articles in over 85 separate publications including The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, and USA Today.  He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown



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