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Choosing a College

Consider Your Career Pathway

Career exploration is the first step in planning for your future — whether you’re planning on going to college or directly into the workforce, or you’re not sure yet! The goal of education is to set you up for success in a career. It is essential to understand where you want to go to know what path to take. Explore your career pathway — an important step in understanding what education you need to be successful.

Prioritize Your Interests and Skills

Before flipping through college view books or logging onto campus websites, first begin the process of selecting colleges by examining yourself. Think about the factors that have nurtured your talents and interests. Think about the things that are most important to you for your college experience. Consider all of these factors when building your list of schools where you want to apply.

Admissions Insider Publication Cover

Admissions Insider

The Comprehensive Guide to Applying for College

Choosing a Major

Knowing which major you want can be a very important step in the college selection process, as some schools are geared towards certain disciplines (i.e. business, nursing and engineering schools).  

1. Take a Career Assessment

Career interest and aptitude assessments are great tools to explore your strengths and what careers you are best suited for. Finding a career that is the right fit is about more than what you like- it’s about what you’re good at and the work environment where you’ll be happy. 

Consider your personality, values and motivations. Are you outgoing or reserved? Do you prefer structured environments where you know precisely what is expected of you? Do you like working independently or as part of a team? The answers to some of these questions will help you identify the careers- and the major needed for that career.  

2. Identify Your Favorite Subjects from High School

Make a list of your favorite classes. Focus on the most enjoyable courses in which you excelled. Make a list of your least favorite subjects. This may be even more important – ruling out subjects you dislike is equally important.

3. Gather Information

An informational interview with a professional in the career field you are interested in is one of the best ways to get information first-hand.  

Still Not Sure?

Being unsure about your major doesn’t have to be a barrier to attending college. Build your list using colleges with a wide variety of majors so your options aren’t limited when it comes time to make a decision.

Career Exploration Appointments

Learn more about your right fit career in a Career Exploration appointment.

Guide to the College Search

College Search

Attend a College Fair

College fairs can provide a wealth of information to help you start narrowing your list of possible colleges.
After registering, watch for a list of colleges that will be there and identify a few schools you know you want to visit. With so many schools present, it’s helpful to have a game plan going in.
Below are some questions you may want to ask the college representative:
•    What is the average freshman class size?
•    Can I use the Common Application to apply?
•    What kind of financial aid does your school offer?
•    Can I live on campus all two/four years?
•    In addition to the FAFSA, do you require the CSS/Profile? If so, once or every year?

Look out for Destination College, our annual college planning event and college fair for NH high school juniors and their families!

College Search Tools

Use an online college search tool, like a college database with lots of filters, to explore colleges and build your list. Also, check with your school counseling office to see what tools they may have to assist you.

Big Future by The College Board®

  • Big Future is a free tool that helps you explore your interests, college majors, and different schools
  • Personalized action plans you can save and edit throughout your college search


  • Used by some schools in NH and can look different from school to school
  • Students and parents/guardians have login information
  • Keep track of your list and application steps completed
  • For more information, contact your school's counseling office

College Navigator

  • The College Navigator is a free tool from the U.S. Department of Education
  • Explore schools including the types of degrees and programs they offer, admission requirements, campus safety statistics, accreditation information, retention and graduation rates, and more

College Scorecard

  • The College Scorecard is a free tool from the U.S. Department of Education
  • Highlights key indicators about the cost and value of colleges

Visit a College Campus

  1. Schedule your visit – Colleges offer many different events for you to see campus, this could be an open house, information sessions, or even a virtual visit. If you do an on campus tour make sure you leave enough time to walk around on your own after the tour.
  2. Make the most of your visit – Explore all the opportunities available from the admissions office. Many offer lunches with current students or other fun ways to learn more about the school.
  3. Collect materials – Pick up all admissions materials and financial aid brochures. Student newspapers, flyers and activity calendars will also give you a sense of what campus life is really like.
  4. Try the food and see a dorm – Whether or not you plan to live on campus, it will become somewhat of a second home. You should feel comfortable in all the spaces available for students, including the dining halls. Have lunch and make sure you like the food!
  5. Reflect and write – Jot down a few notes to capture your impression of the campus immediately after the tour. Record the names of the college staff you interacted with and send them thank you notes.

Virtual Tours of NH Campuses

Virtual campus tours are a great tool in your college search as they may help you to sort through schools or may give you the opportunity to "see" a campus you are unable to visit. 
Websites like Campus Tours and YouVisit provide access to thousands of campuses nationwide.
Virtual campus tour links for New Hampshire college campuses include:
•    Colby-Sawyer College
•    Great Bay Community College
•    Lakes Region Community College
•    Manchester Community College
•    Nashua Community College
•    NHTI - Concord's Community College
•    River Valley Community College
•    White Mountains Community College
•    Dartmouth College
•    Franklin Pierce University
•    Keene State College
•    MCPHS University
•    New England College
•    Plymouth State University
•    Rivier University
•    Saint Anselm College
•    Southern NH University
•    University of NH Durham
•    University of NH Manchester

Questions to Ask Admissions Counselors

  • What percentage of students receive grants and scholarships?
  • What is the average class size during the first year? What is the largest class?
  • Are first-year students guaranteed housing? Every year?
  • What are your most popular majors or programs?
  • What do students like to do for fun?
  • If I decide to take a Gap Year, am I able to keep any financial aid offered for the following year?
  • What’s your favorite campus tradition?

Questions to Ask Current Students

  • What do you feel makes this school the right fit for you and other students?
  • What classes are you taking right now? How much time do you spend on homework?
  • What do you feel are the most popular campus activities? Classes?
  • How accessible are professors out of class? Are tutors available for extra help?
  • What is transportation like?
  • What do you do for fun on weeknights and weekends?
Additional Factors to Consider

Types of Campuses

Trade/Vocational School

  • Privately owned and operated
  • Programs of study ranging from five months to three years
  • Offer a wide variety of job training options
  • Feature concentrated curriculum focused on a specific field
  • Small class size format

Example: Michael’s School of Hair Design & Esthetics

Community College

  • Usually the most affordable college option 
  • Designed to be accessible and supportive of students of all admission criteria
  • Programs of study usually two-years in length, often focus on job training
  • Often designed to transfer to a four-year college
  • Small class size format
  • Generally are closer to home
  • Offer certificates, licenses, associate of arts (A.A.) degrees, associate of science (A.S.) degrees and/or associate of applied science (A.A.S.) degrees

ExampleCampuses of the Community College System of New Hampshire

Four-year College

  • Offer a broad range of courses, usually emphasizing humanities, social science, and science
  • Public or Private — Self-supporting or supported by the state in which they are located
  • Mainly offer undergraduate programs
  • Small or large class format depending on the institution size and student to professor ratio
  • Offer bachelor’s degrees - bachelor of art (B.A.) or bachelor of science (B.S.)
  • Some offer graduate and professional degrees

ExampleSaint Anselm College


  • Very large selection of majors and research facilities with greater variety of classes
  • Public or Private — self-supporting or supported by the state in which they are located
  • Usually offer four-year programs
  • Greater access to more faculty and expertise
  • Sometimes larger class size
  • Offer bachelor of arts (B.A.), bachelor of science (B.S.), graduate & professional degrees

ExampleUniversity of New Hampshire

Types of College Degrees Offered

Note that undergraduate programs only include those that offer Associates or Bachelor’s degrees.

Certificate or License: 
Awarded upon completion of a specific short-term course of study

Associate Degree:
Degree awarded after the completion of defined coursework. These programs generally encompass two years of full-time study or about 60 credits.

Bachelor’s Degree:
Programs of study with a concentration in the arts or the sciences. This degree is awarded upon completion of four years of full-time study or the length of time needed to earn 120 credits.

Master’s Degree: 
A graduate degree awarded beyond the bachelor’s degree. The length of time necessary to complete the requirements of this degree depends upon the course of study and whether the student attends on a full-time or part-time basis. Credit requirements can vary from 36 to 60 depending on the field of study. Common abbreviations for this degree include: MA (Master of Arts), MS (Master of Science), MBA (Master of Business Administration), ME (Master of Engineering), MSW (Master of Social Work) and M.Ed. (Master of Education) to name a few.

Doctoral Degree: 
Awarded for advanced and intensive study in a particular field. Common abbreviations include: MD (Medical Doctor), Pharm.D (Doctor of Pharmacy), PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery), and Ed.D (Doctor of Education).

College Cost

College Financing Tool
  • Explore estimated costs of college when building your list to ensure financial fit
  • Net price calculators, available on my college’s website, will offer a calculated estimate of financial aid based on a prospective student’s family financial information. 
  • College Financing Tool

Net Price Calculators
  • A tool to help students and families compare the possible cost of one college to another and is usually found on the college’s admissions or financial aid page. 
  • Some colleges will also allow students to include their GPA and standardized test scores in order to give a family an estimate of merit scholarship eligibility. 

Special Programs

Articulation Agreements
  • Formal arrangements between community college programs and bachelor degree programs that allow for easy transfer of credits
  • Perfect for students who want to start at a community college and later transfer to a four-year college
  • For many students, makes college more affordable
  • Students alternate between semesters of learning in the classroom and semesters of learning in the workplace
  • Connected to the student’s major and are almost always paid
  • Usually takes five years to earn a bachelor’s degree
  •  Enables students enrolled at one college to enroll in courses at another institution without formally applying for admission to the second institution
  • Students gain on-the-job experience while earning academic credit 
  • Can last from one semester to one year
  • Often unpaid
Study Abroad:
  • Students continue their college education at another location, often another country
  • Can last one semester or a full year
  • Opportunity to immerse in a language and culture 
Honors Program:
  • Varies from college to college
  • Students are either selected based on academic criteria or have to submit an additional application
  • Offers academic challenges along with smaller class sizes, independent study, and research
3-2/Joint Degree Program:
  • Students can increase their course load and earn undergraduate and graduate/first professional degrees in less than the usual amount of time. 
  • Students begin taking graduate-level classes during their undergrad program
  • Examples: Bachelor’s and Master’s in 5 years total 
  • Saves time and money
ROTC Programs:
  • Students commit to serve in the armed forces after graduation
  • Participate in rigorous training and additional military programs during college
  • 100% of tuition covered, as well as books, fees, and a stipend

Helpful Guides

College Navigator

Find the right college for you with help from the U.S. Department of Education's College Navigator resource.

CCSNH Majors

Interested in attending a community college in NH? Check out available academic programs at a glance.

College Financing Tool

Explore the estimated cost of college when building your list of colleges to ensure you are financial fit.

Need Help Making Your College List?

NHHEAF’s Center for College Planning is dedicated to serving all students throughout their education and career planning journeys, for free!