Question: How do I choose the right college? My parents want me to go to the college where they met and fell in love. How do I make sure my choice is right for me?

Answer: Easy. When you walk onto the right campus, you will know immediately. It's very much like falling in love.

Ask your parents how they knew they were right for each other, and they will say the same thing: Almost as soon as they met, they felt like soul mates. Here are other important factors to consider:

• When you look at its website and brochures and visit the campus, do you feel a connection to that university?

I know this is the fuzzy part of choosing a college, but I have talked to hundreds of students about this, and many respond by saying, "It felt right for me when I stepped onto campus."

Conversely, when you step onto the wrong campus, you'll know that, too. My daughter had barely begun a visit to a major university when she declared that the school wasn't for her. The mascot, she said, was "gross."

• When you visit the campus, are all your questions answered to your satisfaction?

After you listen to the formal presentations by the university's admission officers, walk around the campus and talk to students.

See if they are friendly and willing to stop and answer your questions. Notice if many of them are proudly wearing the college's sweat shirts or caps, or if no one is wearing anything with its logos. You have to feel proud about associating your name with that college for the rest of your life.

• Know the academic reputation of your college.

Yes, it might have a top football program or a steep rock-climbing facility, but does it have professors who are world-class? How about nationally ranked academic programs?

Ultimately, the academic program of your choice is what you are paying for, and the higher its quality and reputation, the higher the value you will get for your tuition dollars.

Ask the right questions

Picking the right college is easier if you ask the right questions. Here are the dean's suggestions:

1. Do you have academic programs in my intended major that are nationally ranked?

2. Do you have faculty members in my major who have world-class reputations?

3. What percentage of your first-year classes are taught by full-time faculty members compared with teaching assistants?

4. How good is your advising office? (Some schools have one adviser per 500 students, and some have one per 200 students.)

5. Do all of your faculty members have office hours posted on their doors, and are they responsive to students' e-mails and questions?

U Must B Kidding

I asked a smart student why he had chosen a college where I worked. He said: "Because of its reputation in science and engineering." His mom, who was sitting with us, looked at him and said, "Honey, tell the dean the truth." The son smiled sheepishly and said, "Because you guys have the only paintball club in the area!"

Send your questions and stories about college to Dean Ali Malekzadeh at Please include your name and hometown for possible publication. Ali Malekzadeh is a former administrator and faculty member at Arizona State University. He is dean of the Williams College of Business at Xavier University in Cincinnati.