Now is the time of year when millions of high school seniors gear up for their final hurrah. Finding the right college becomes the hot topic of discussion, and college tuition – well, that’s for Mom and Dad to worry about. Before the process of evaluating colleges begins, do you know the important questions to ask yourself? Here are 6 things to consider when finding the right college:
- What kind of degree do you need? Are you going to college because it seems like the right thing to do, or does your future career path truly require a Bachelor or Master’s degree? Examine the careers you wish to pursue and find out what schooling is required. If a certificate from a specialty school plus ample field experience is what the industry calls for, don’t convince yourself that a four-year degree (and the high college tuition costs it takes to achieve it) is required.
- Have you thoroughly researched your major? Look through the course catalogue to find out what classes you’ll be taking. If you wind up questioning your commitment to that major, you want to have the flexibility to transfer to other programs. Be aware of the other majors your school offers in case this happens to you.
- Can you afford the college tuition? This is a trick question. You won’t know if you can afford the college tuition until you file your FAFSA and receive a preliminary financial aid award package. Do not automatically assume you can’t afford a certain college based on what we call the “sticker price”. These days, college tuition is similar to a vehicle’s MSRP. It’s usually higher than you are comfortable with, it’s negotiable, and everyone might pay a little differently for the same experience.
- Think that size doesn’t matter? Aside from opportunities to meet new people, consider other aspects of your college experience that are affected by the school’s size. Larger schools usually have a wider gap in the student-to-faculty ratio which may keep you from getting to know your professors, whereas smaller schools might lack in certain resources and opportunities. What are you willing to be flexible on?
- Can you get in – and if so, can you survive? We did research in partnership with Bentley University, and found that the ability to get admitted in the first place was the number one factor in determining whether or not a student would apply to a school. Be honest with yourself. This is why the concept of reach schools and safety schools exists. The goal is to find the right one for you. Evaluate carefully what the colleges you are considering expect of their students.
- What are the graduation rates within 4, 5, and 6 years? This ties back into college tuition. The longer you go to college, the more you’re paying for it. Keep college costs low by graduating on time – or early if possible.
There are so many other factors that come into play when finding the right college, but the process of shopping for college is evolving. Consider these items when evaluating the colleges you apply for so that you can confidently determine that the college you attend fits your personality, academics, budget, career path, and future.