5 cultural considerations

chapelEach college has their own culture and you may want to find one that fits your personal views. Will you be comfortable in a school where most people have a different political view or religious affiliation? Maybe you’ve always been the “outcast” but you’d like to know how it feels to be surrounded by people like you. Or perhaps you’d like to immerse yourself with people that are completely different than you. Before you make any final decisions, make sure you consider these five factors:

Religious affiliation: All public universities are nondenominational (non-religious). If you’re applying to a private school, it will likely be associated with a particular religion. Don’t let a school’s religious affiliation keep you from applying unless you know the whole story. Do a little research before you cross it off your list. A few might require religious observances, but others are very open-minded about other religious beliefs.

If you’re looking to surround yourself with people that share your religious beliefs, be sure to ask the school what percentage of students practice that religion. Some schools are only loosely tied to the religion, so you don’t want to be disappointed when you arrive on campus.

Diversity: Besides racial and ethnic diversity, consider the percentage of students that received financial aid and how many attended public or private high schools. Also check out how many are from outside the state or the country.

If ethnic diversity is an important factor in your college experience, you might want to consider a minority-serving institution. That’s a fancy name for saying that least 25% of the students belong to one minority group (Black, Hispanic, Asian, or American Indian).
For a list of minority-serving institutions, check out this website.

Single gender or co-ed: Since most schools now are co-ed, it’s very likely that a single gender college isn’t even on your list.  If you are a guy, you only have a handful of options if you want to attend an all-male school.

For women, being in a single gender environment can be very empowering and supportive. You might think that you’re going to an island of women, but you’re not. Your professors won’t be all women and you’ll probably be located in a town or city. And if there’s a co-ed school nearby, you’ll have the chance to take classes and attend events there.

Many single gender colleges are paired with brother or sister schools, or they’re in a network that allows you to take classes at other colleges. This will give you the best of both worlds, whether you’re attending a single gender or co-ed school.

Political stance: It might be very intimidating to be surrounded by people that don’t share your political views. Religious colleges are more likely to be conservative and colleges located in big cities are probably more likely to be liberal. At some of these places, you might only find a handful of people that share your political views. You’ll see them played out in everything from your classes, clubs, college policies, dorms, and conversations with your friends.

Environment –This is basically how comfortable it makes you feel to be on campus. Do the students and faculty seem friendly? Do they study or party during the week? What do they do for fun? Do most students go abroad? Are they gay friendly? Do they have diversity in the student body and faculty? Do sports play a big role on campus? How close is the campus to a town, city, grocery store, movie theater, etc? Do most students live on or off campus? Not all of these things will be important to you, and this is just a start.


It’s hard to get a feeling for the overall environment of a school without visiting it in person, so try to visit at least a few to get a feel for their culture.

If you feel strongly about anything I mentioned here, it could be a good starting point for your college search. If you’re unsure of where you stand, you can take these into consideration later on. Keep an open mind during the whole process. While you’re doing your search, remember that you probably won’t find the perfect school, but you should be able to find one that’s a good fit.


>>4 potential deal breakers


>>8 factors to help narrow your search