by Zach Esser

Right about now is the time where seniors finalize their applications and essays for the colleges they would like to go to. Most application due dates are in January and February. Juniors and the rest of the school are left to wonder, where will I go to college? Will I go to an in-state or out of state college? Even if I find a good college, what do I want to do? Virginia has plenty of highly qualified universities that have a variety of different subjects and schools that can support individual preferences. Out of state school tuition often costs a good amount more than in state’s tuition so if money is a problem, in state is the way to go.

Virginia Tech is great school if you like sports. The school’s football team, the Hokies, is a major part of this former military institute. VT was founded in 1872 in Blacksburg, Virginia. Blacksburg is a small town with almost half of its population attending the college. As of last year VT had a total enrollment of 24,000 students with a huge rural campus of 2,600 acres to fit them. The school’s motto is “invent the future” so no wonder that the subjects that it excels in the most are engineering, manufacturing, and agriculture. An average acceptance rate of 70 percent and a U.S. News ranking of the best national colleges is 71 make this college a solid contender for the state of Virginia.

VCU or Virginia Commonwealth University is also big on sports but instead of football, basketball is in the spotlight. The Rams are a division 1 team with an overall record of 26-9 for 2013. VCU was founded in 1838 in Richmond Virginia and had a total enrollment last year of 23,500 students. Its environment is urban and has a small campus size of only 144 acres.

That’s why Stuart Alumnus Tito Soto (Class ‘14) chose VCU; “I love that its urban and I also like that the campus is so close to home”. According to U.S. News, VCU’s national ranking is 156 and it has an acceptance rate of 64 percent. This college is for you if you’re interested in nursing, photography, and fine arts, because that’s what VCU does best.

If you’re looking for a good law school that is close to home, George Mason University (GMU) is right for you. They also have very good criminology, game design, and economics schools. GMU was founded in 1972 in Fairfax, Virginia. It has many campuses all around the D.C. area but the main one has a suburban setting of 817 acres and had a student population of 22,000 students last year.

This is why junior John Griffin wants to go to GMU. “It has a pretty big campus for how close to home it is; I also have a lot of friends already there.” GMU has a U.S. News college ranking of 136 and an acceptance rate of 62 present making this school harder to get into, but worth it if you do.

James Madison University or JMU was founded in 1908 in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Among other activities, JMU is well regarded for its amazing variety of clubs; its film club and scuba diving club make the top of this list. JMU’s musical theater is also well regarded. U.S. News ranks this college number 6 out of all other southern universities. It has an urban campus of 721 acres that fit 18,500 students last year. Sports is also big at JMU with a Division 1 basketball team; the Dukes. JMU also has a well renounced school of public affairs and school of language. Study abroad programs are also used extensively with JMU. Students can explore opportunities in countries like China, France, and Spain.

Colleges that are close to home can be dramatically more inexpensive than colleges out of state. Each college website has a net calculator that can help you add up the costs and fees of that college. Each college that is listed above has its own qualities it does well in. It’s up to every student to pick a college that these qualities will help the student succeed. Will a college be picked for its sports team, or its GPA, or maybe a combination of both? That’s up to you to decide.