There are so many important things to consider when searching for your dream school, from the overall campus vibe, location, academic program offerings, etc. Everyone’s list of college “must haves” probably looks a little bit different, but check out our list of five super important numbers every student should be considering in their college search. These numbers can be found on every myOptions school page and should be easily accessible on a college’s admissions website. Here is more info on what to look for on a college website.
1. Retention Rate
Retention rate (as defined by our friends at FAFSA) is the percentage of a school’s first-time, first-year students who continue at the school the following year. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average retention rate is 81% for four-year non-profit public and private colleges. Your first year of college can be a huge transition, so a solid retention rate is a good sign that the school provides support and resources to help students thrive through this transition. Retention rates will never be 100%, life happens, students transfer, but you should be wary of schools with retention rates below the average.
2. Graduation Rate
Graduation rate (as defined by our friends at FAFSA) measures the percentage of a school’s first-time, first-year students who complete their program within 150% of the published time for the program. For your typical four-year program, this equals out to six years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average graduation rate at four-year non-profit public colleges is 60% and 66% for four-year private non-profit colleges. Although college is an amazing life experience, you can’t stay forever. It’s important for your future (and your finances) to graduate in a timely manner.
3. Employment Rate/Graduate School Acceptance
You’re likely going to college in hopes of setting yourself up for success in the future, this means the success rates for those who came before you at a college are pretty important. Colleges survey their graduating students and alumni to see what their post-graduation plans are and check in with them after graduation to see what they’re up to. A high employment rate/graduate school acceptance is a good indication that a college has resources and support to lead you to success post-graduation.
4. Average Student Loan Debt
Affordability should be a huge factor in your college search. Debt can be an unfortunate reality for some students, but keeping that debt to a minimum is key. PLZ, PLZ stay away from colleges with a high average student loan debt. Yes, your college education is an investment in yourself and your future, but not one that you want to be paying for 5ever.
5. Average % of financial need met
Your financial need is the cost of attendance for a school minus your expected family contribution AKA EFC (determined by the FAFSA). Ideally, a school will meet 100% of your need WITHOUT loans. Some colleges will factor in loans when trying to meet your financial need. Definitely evaluate affordability without factoring in loans to determine which college is truly meeting your financial need.
It’s important to us that you not only get to college, but you get through college as well. We hope college leads you to graduate school or your dream career with little to no debt. If you ever have trouble finding any of these numbers, be sure to ask your admissions counselor or even email us and we’ll be happy to track down the info for you. Good luck with your college search!