Finding a College

It’s difficult to figure out what kind of university would best fit your needs and personality. There are many factors, and here we introduce some that you should think about. However, keep in mind that this is just a simple guideline. You need to do your own research. There is a lot of information out there, use Google, friends, teachers, guidance counselors to find things out for yourself.


TWO-YEAR OR FOUR-YEAR?

Depending on what you are aiming for in terms of a career, you can either attend a two-year or a four-year college. Attending a two-year college will get you an Associate’s Degree while a four-year college gets you a Bachelor’s Degree. I personally think it’s better to attend a four-year college, just because usually it’s better to have more education than you need rather than less. Say if you go to a two-year college and change your mind about what you want to do with your life, you’d have to transfer to a four-year college. In the end, I think it’s less hassle.

However, many people attend two-year colleges to save money too. If a two-year Associate’s degree is all you need (for example if you want to be a nurse or an mechanic), by all means, don’t spend more money than you have to. Other people also go to a two-year college to get their general courses done at a lower price and then transfer to a bigger college to receive their Bachelor’s degree. Here are a few good links:

PUBLIC OR PRIVATE?

When a university is public, that means most of its funding comes from state funds, including the state taxes your parents are paying. Private universities on the other hand get most of their money from private donations by alumni or friends of the university.

In general, private universities are more expensive than public ones, but don’t let that deter you! Private universities often have many many scholarships that make it just as affordable as a public university. Of course, you can only get those scholarships if you 1. APPLY and 2. HAVE DECENT GRADES.

Private universities are also usually smaller than public ones, but that isn’t always true. Every institution is different. Usually, it’s best to apply to both public and private universities. And then depending on the financial aid each college offers you, go from there.

LOCATION: IN-STATE VS. OUT-OF-STATE?

My usual advice to high school students is to try something different, don’t be afraid to travel to another state or region far away from home. There is so much out there you can learn, and that won’t happen if you stay in the same place, in your comfort zone where things are familiar and safe, but boring. Don’t limit yourself!

With that in mind, there are legitimate reasons why people choose to go to college close to home. Maybe you need to take care of your sick mom, or you seriously couldn’t get any financial aid and the college down the street is the only one you can afford. Also, in-state tuition is much cheaper than out-of state, and you also have a better chance of getting in to in-state schools.

In the end, it’s up to you. Just don’t let minor things like your job, your friends, or fear hold you back. There are tons of jobs you can apply for wherever you go. You can visit friends during breaks and keep up with them on Facebook in the meantime. It may be scary, but you’ll have the best experience and grow a lot as a person wherever you attend college. But remember, your college experience is what you make it to be. If you take challenges as they come and look at the bright side of everything, I guarantee you’ll make college meaningful.

Another thing: you can also consider going to a college outside the country. The U.S. has some of the best universities internationally, but again, don’t limit yourself. The world is your playground. Otherwise, you can also study abroad for a semester or two too.

WHAT MAJORS/PROGRAMS ARE OFFERED?

If you’re planning to go pre-med, make sure the college you go to has a good medical program. If you want to be a writer, University of Iowa for example has an internationally renowned writing workshop. Having a general idea of what you’re interested in can really help.

However, if you don’t know what you want to do, your best bet is to go to a larger university. A larger university will give you more choices and classes so you can sample different fields and programs. That’s what college is for; it’s a place where you can figure out what you like and don’t like to do.

COST AND FINANCIAL AID?

Look at your budget, what can you and your family afford? What scholarships did you get? What financial aid can a university offer you? I’m sorry, there’s no easy way to go about this because this depends on how much money you have and how much money you can receive.

Most scholarships can be applied to the majority of colleges across the country, so the best thing to do is to apply and get as much financial aid as you can. If your family is low-income, there are tons of opportunities for you to get funding. Check out the scholarships/financial aid tab.

CULTURE/DIVERSITY/SAFETY

The culture of a college and the surrounding areas can often make or break your college experience. If you’re a really liberal person, maybe going to the University of Tennessee isn’t the best option for you. Likewise, if you hate the cold, apply to universities on the coast or farther down south. If you like concerts and art festivals, check out how many theaters and music halls are around the area. If you love sports, is there a good local sports team where the university is?

Diversity is another important factor in terms of activities and fun stuff to do. At the University of Minnesota for example, there are lots of different cultural groups which means fun events (FREE FOOD!) and lots of interesting people to talk to. Having different kinds of people also means many different kinds of student groups you can join (e.g. A Capella groups, science organizations, sports clubs).

You should also look up statistics for the places where those universities are located. What’s the crime rate? What’s the dropout/graduation rate of the school? How many graduates get jobs right out of college? Is the city bike/pedestrian friendly? Think of what’s important to you, and look it up.


Again, these are only some things you should consider. Do your own research, and try to figure it out for yourself. There are so many factors, it’s definitely overwhelming. Just remember, most universities are pretty good, so wherever you end up going, you’ll probably learn a lot and come out a better person.

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