Selecting a Post-Secondary Institution

Your decision to apply to college is an important one. To get started, you need to think about where you want to go and what experience you want to have.

Three Steps to Selecting a Post-Secondary Institution:

  1. Wish
  2. Research
  3. Narrow


Create a wish list of all the colleges and schools that interest you. Don’t limit yourself. Think about who you are and where you want to be. Consider the kind of academic and social environments in which you feel most comfortable. The colleges you choose should reflect your skills, goals, interests and personality.


Research each college on your wish list. Here are a few pointers to find out if a college is a good match for you:

Talk to your college advisor.
She can help you find
colleges that match your
academic profile, personal
interests, and strengths.

Attend college fairs. When attending, ask representatives questions like these to get the most out of your visit:

  • What size are the classes?
  • Are the classes taught by professors or teaching assistants?
  • How much of student need is covered by financial aid?
  • Is on-campus housing available for all students?
  • How many students graduate on time?
  • What percentage of students find jobs or go on to graduate programs upon graduating?
  • How diverse and tolerant is the student population? Consider the support systems available for these students.
  • What kind of support does the college have for students who face personal or academic challenges or students with learning or physical disabilities?


Narrow your list to three or four colleges.

Dream colleges include colleges whose admission requirements are challenging but you’re still optimistic about.

Probable colleges include colleges whose admission requirements you mostly satisfy and where there is  good chance you will be accepted.

Safety colleges include colleges whose admission requirements you satisfy and where you are likely to be accepted.

What are the different kinds of schools?

  • Four-year colleges or universities – These can offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees, and sometimes include professional schools, like law school or medical school. Universities tend to be larger than colleges. Nearby universities include Kent State University and The University of Akron.
  • Colleges or universities offering two-year associate degrees – In addition to their four-year program, some colleges and universities offer two-year associate degrees in areas such as justice studies, nursing and information technologies. In addition, sometimes students can get started with their general requirements for a four-year degree at a smaller branch campus, which offers a more personalized experience. Nearby colleges offering this option include Kent State Stark, among others.
  • Two-year community colleges – These offer two-year associate degrees and sometimes certifications in particular career fields, like nursing and information technologies. Because their costs are often lower and admission is more open, many students start their college careers here. Cuyahoga Community College or Tri-C and Stark State College of Technology are community colleges located nearby.
  • Career, technical, vocational or trade schools – With programs lasting two years or less, these schools prepare students for specific careers, such as welding, cosmetology or medical imaging. The difference between technical schools and trade schools is that technical schools teach the science behind the occupation, while trade schools focus on hands-on application of skills needed to do the job.

Many of these schools are for-profit businesses. It is important to make sure the school is accredited, especially because a school must be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education in order for you to be eligible to participate in federal student aid programs. Nearby technical schools include Akron Institute.