Choosing which college to attend can be an exciting and difficult decision. After all, it’s where you will be spending the next four years of your life, where friendships will blossom, and where your formative adult years occur.
But there are things to consider when making the decision to attend college, aside from where your friends are going, or where your favorite football team is from. There are other things to consider in the long-term, that will affect your overall college experience and job prospects.
Before deciding where to go, here are five things to consider before choosing a college.
With the rising costs of tuition, price should be a main consideration when deciding where to go. The differences in cost between in-state and out-of-state, public and private tuition can be huge.
Consider what kind of financial aid packages the university offers. Do they offer any scholarships or grants? Or is it mostly student loans? These are important factors to consider when choosing which university to attend. It can be overwhelming to think about at first, but the cost of tuition can affect the next decade of your life if you aren’t careful. Think long and hard about the cost of tuition and how you will pay for it.
You definitely need to calculate the ROI of your college education.
Location is another key factor to consider when choosing a college. You could love your school, but if you hate the city or town you live in, you’ll be miserable. Start by thinking about your ideal living situation. Are you a city person who loves the hustle and bustle, or are you a small town lover, who enjoys the simpler things and a quiet environment?
Our environment heavily affects our psychology, so think about your location as it relates to your happiness and productivity. If you don’t love where you live, it will be hard to focus and will detract you from your studies.
One thing that is often left out of the equation when deciding where to go for college, is culture. Your prospective college culture is another important factor to consider because it will affect how well you fit in and how comfortable you feel in the environment. Think about if you are walking into a party school or a very conservative, education-focused school. It’s key to think about what kind of culture you thrive in and what you are looking to experience in the next four years.
Ideally, you want to surround yourself with like-minded individuals or people that you can learn from. So if you are looking to study hard and focus, going to a party school might be distracting. Conversely, if you are looking to have the best four years of your life and you attend a stuffy private school, you may be disappointed. Consider what you want out of your college experience and make sure the college culture aligns with those values.
Area of Study
Each college tends to have an area of study that they are well known for. Do some research on your prospective majors (and yes, pick out three, as majors change all the time), email professors, and learn about the reputation of the department.
While fame or notoriety isn’t something that needs to be considered, it’s important that you feel comfortable with the professors in that department and feel like you can learn something valuable from that specific department.
One of the reasons I attended NYU was because Tisch School of the Arts is well known for their arts focus and research background. I felt like I was working with the best in my field and that I was surrounded by students with a similar passion and interest.
Picking a college that excels in your area of study can help you stay motivated and learn from the best in your field — you are also likely to be surrounded by passionate people, and gain access to more opportunities.
Four years goes by really quickly and suddenly you are thrust into the real world after graduation. Sometimes the “real world” can be a rude awakening, compared to the comfortable bubble that school provides. It’s crucial to think long-term when choosing a college, so start thinking about what post-graduate job opportunities are in the area. If you know that you have to move right after graduation to obtain a job in your field, weigh the pros and cons of staying or moving to that specific location for college.
You can get the best education at a college, but if there are no jobs in your field in that specific area, you will be forced to move. Moving is a common occurrence after college, but it’s best when the cards are in your hands, and you are not forced by economic circumstances.
When thinking about which college to attend, think about your future job prospects, living situation, cost, and culture. Evaluating these things beforehand will ensure that your college experience is both memorable and rewarding.
What else would you add to the list?
Melanie Lockert is a freelance wordsmith, a passionate debt fighter, and frugal lovin’ minimalist who writes at DearDebt.com. She devotes 50% of her income to student loan debt and is often dreaming of her next adventure.