Top 6 Considerations for Choosing Your College: Part One
Many high school seniors are currently in a state of mass confusion. With the holidays approaching, students are inching closer and closer to the May 1 deadline to decide which college to attend.Talking with some of these poor, unfortunate souls reminded me how stressful the whole process was. Looking back, it’s not hard to remember the constant second-guessing and pressure from Mom and Dad. For those seniors out there struggling, here’s the 6 top factors that you should consider before saying “I do” to your future school:
1.) You can go the distance.
You know, a lot of people would put my second point, “Price,” before the distance issue. Before I have all the frugals pick up their torches and pitchforks, let’s take a quick moment for some real talk. Seniors: Many of you want a fresh start. I get it! Maybe high school wasn’t the greatest experience for you, or the relationship with Mom and Pop isn’t as seamless as it was when you were younger. Whatever the case may be, college is a great time to spread your wings and see the world a little!
In that same breath, let me throw this out there as well: Just because you want to “start over” doesn’t mean you have to travel across the country. Overlooking the schools in your area is probably one of the biggest mistakes you could make in your decision process. Seniors, hear me out on this one. Living in college is a totally different experience than living at home. Yes, the local college may be ten minutes from your house, but that does not mean that you’ll be home every night to eat dinner with the fam. Your life on campus is a whole different world. Your time will be stretched between friends, classes, sleeping, and probably clubs/organizations. Suddenly days will blend together, late nights will become normal, and the library will become your home-away-from-home. After about your third week, Seniors, you’ll forget how close to home you actually are.
2.) “Forget about the price tag?” I don’t think so.
Jessie J obviously wasn’t talking about tuition when she sang “It ain’t about the money, money, money.” Below is a table from the College Board’s website, outlining the higher education prices of 2013-14.
**Note: This table may cause an outburst of tears, agonizing moans, and nausea. Should not be viewed by pregnant women and/or those with small children, as it may cause second guessing of bringing children into the world.
We don’t live under rocks people. It’s not a secret that college is something expensive, especially if your dream school is out of state. For my family, price was a large part of the decision process. I didn’t want to come out of my four years with a massive student loan (depending on where you go and for how long, that dollar amount can reach well into six figures). However, if you know in your gut that such-and-such a school is where you belong, you should go for it! My only suggestion is that you sit down and draft a financial plan. Chances are, student loans could be accompanied by scholarships or grants. If school isn’t completely overwhelming, take a look at picking up a job. School finances will figure themselves out, but the overall price tag could help steer you in the right direction.
3.) Lost in the masses.
Much of the college experience is going to come down to how active you hope to be in your university. Throughout the country, universities range from hundreds to thousands to tens of thousands, giving students the option of how big they want their “pond.” Don’t be fooled, Seniors, the size of a school makes a huge difference. It’s not always the case, but don’t be surprised when the bigger school makes larger class sizes. A big school could be the perfect place to start a college career, but smaller colleges can sometimes create a more intimate atmosphere.
Other than the large class sizes, start asking questions about the college’s teaching faculty. It’s no secret that university entry level courses are sometimes taught by graduate students. I’m not saying that these classes are insufficiently taught, but be aware that these “teachers” do not yet have their degrees. They’re still learning their stuff, which can sometimes mean bad news for you. The right college size is all about where you think you’ll find your niche and what kind of learning style suits you.
I know that deciding which college to attend is difficult and stressful, but hang in there! Keep these 3 considerations in mind and your eyes peeled for the remaining 3 to finish up the list of college decision factors!