The choice of college is one of the most important choices you are going to make in your life. You do not just invest a huge amount of money and time into it – you also determine the direction your life is going to take for years to come. Considering all this, you have to approach selecting a college with utmost care. It is not an easy choice, too. Prices vary wildly and do not always reflect the actual quality of education. So what should you consider when making such an important choice? Let us take a look.
The first thing that comes to mind to most people is obviously how much it is going to cost. It is also one of the most complicated issues because it is not just a matter of “more expensive” equaling “better”. A lot of details factor in the college price, some of them being:
- Public colleges and universities are, on average, cheaper than private ones. In addition, going to the public college in your own state is usually less expensive than to one located in another state;
- You should consider non-tuition costs that differ wildly depending on the college’s location. Things like accommodation, food, transportation, and other necessary services will add up and can make a significant difference over the years. If the college is located far away from your current location, it will also increase the overall price, especially if you will have to fly there;
- Financial aid and scholarships. While they usually do not cover the full price of tuition, they still can make a great difference. You will have to make your own calculations of what you will have to pay out of your own pocket.
Your Future Salary
While no college can guarantee that you are going to get a job with such-and-such salary, you will get a better chance at a high-paying position with certain schools. You can look for the average salaries of graduates online and compare them between the colleges that interest you.
Overall College Experience
Although the primary reason you go to college is to prepare for your future career, college experience as a whole is more than that. You want to look not just for a school that gives you the best chance of landing a lucrative job, but for a place where you will feel at home for the next four years of your life, with a campus culture aligned with your values and a broader experience you will enjoy. While you can, if necessary, pay someone to write papers for you, it is you who is going to live and work in this place.
This one is very hard to estimate, but some colleges have much better reputations than others, and you will get better professional prospects just by attending them. In addition, some schools are heavily associated with specific professional fields. They will not influence your chances all that much if you do not pursue some particular career.
College’s Alumni Network
Some colleges can boast of having extensive and active alumni networks that not only help their graduates to keep in touch with each other but also assist both current students and recent graduates in finding suitable internships and jobs. Having such a safety net can be an extremely useful bonus, but singling such universities out can be somewhat difficult.
Everybody has his/her own priorities when choosing a college. Some applicants are more concerned than others with the financial aspect of the problem, others consider it impossible to study at a place with a culture that is at odds with their values, still, others believe that quality of education is something that warrants getting into any amount of debt. Nobody can decide for yourself what is the most important factor in your case – you have to do it yourself.
Schools come in all types and sizes: from small colleges with fewer than a thousand students to state universities enrolling over 30,000 students every year. Bigger does not necessarily mean better. While smaller colleges may not offer as many or as diverse programs as larger ones, they are often the best places to look for highly specialized degrees, including individually designed majors. In addition, they often have smaller class sizes, which means that you have an easier time getting personalized support from advisors and professors.
However, big universities have better funding and thus tend to offer excellently stocked libraries and up-to-date research facilities, as well as broader ranges of programs and professional resources.
Additional Resources and Support
While education is your primary goal for going to college, you should consider other opportunities and resources it has to offer. Can it support your medical conditions or special learning requirements, if you have any? Does it have sufficient counseling services, if it is relevant for you? What does it have to offer in terms of physical activities and medical help? Does it accommodate your spiritual needs? Does it have services that can help you obtain useful internships or job opportunities?
As you can see, choosing a college is a much more involved process than just picking a school in a suitable price range. As the results of this choice are going to be with you for years to come – probably for your entire life – it pays to approach it as carefully and meticulously as possible.