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Choosing the Right College for You

November 8, 2019

Choosing between colleges can be tough. While one college may be cheaper, the other one may have a better program for you and so you don’t really know which is your best option. With hundreds of options available to new students, especially with specialized schools like music schools, art schools, technical schools and more- the choice about which school to attend is becoming increasingly more difficult for those who are college bound. So how do you decide? It comes down to a few things. When choosing a college, the things you should consider are whether to attend a private or public university, the class-size and whether or not that college will help you achieve your educational goals, career objectives and other plans you may have.

When looking at different universities, you may have come across the terms ‘private’ or ‘public’ university and they seem to make a big difference when choosing a school. But what do those mean and why do they matter? Firstly, the biggest difference between public and private universities is in how they get their funding. Most, if not all, public universities get their money from the government specifically the state government and because the funding is subsidized, the money that’s taken from tuition isn’t used to cover all of the university’s operating costs. Private universities however, receive the entirety of their funding from tuition and private donations. This also means that their tuition rates are going to be considerably higher than that of a public university. According to the College Board, “the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2017–2018 school year was $34,740 at private colleges [and] $9,970 for state residents at public colleges.” (collegedata)  Remember though, that just because a college is more expensive, it doesn’t mean that a school is necessarily better quality. Also consider which schools offer you the best scholarships and aid because this can also help alleviate a lot of stress regarding cost. If you are trying to choose between two schools and it comes down to cost, I would recommend choosing the one that offers you a better scholarship.

The second thing to consider when choosing a university is class size.This can be a pretty important factor in choosing a college because class size can make a huge difference in your college experience. Why is that important, you may ask? Well, small class sizes allow for greater access to and relationships with professors. This is important for a number reasons. One, you will have the ability to turn directly to your professors for help on coursework. Two, developing good relationships with your professors means that you will have a better experience in your program, gain a better understanding, gain a good connection for getting things like letters of recommendation and even personal recommendations for job openings. Plus, small class sizes also allow you to work more closely with your classmates in a hands-on environment. So, rather than listening to a super long lecture, your classes could consist of a short lecture, then hands-on activities with your classmates to help you gain a better understanding of the course content. It’s also a little easier (and less intimidating) to ask questions while you’re in class. Overall, a smaller class size can really make for a tighter-knit educational experience when it comes to your academics and the connections and friendships you will make that will better you both academically and in your career. Larger classes, on the other hand, will challenge you to be more independent as your professor may not have much time to meet with you personally. It can also be very intimidating to ask questions in front of a hundred or more other students. But, you may want the college experience you see in the movies with the huge lecture halls and hundreds of classmates. If you prefer a smaller class size, you may want to research your university to see what their class-size is.  For example, at the Idaho State University College of Business, class sizes average at about 13 students to one professor. Do some research and reach out to faculty or other members of the college who may be able to give you a better look at what the sizes of their classes are like.

The third thing to consider when choosing a university is what your end goals are. Consider whether or not a college has the resources and if it will be able to help you achieve those goals. If you aspire to major in music and want music courses day in and day out, you might consider a music college like Berkley College of Music where the focus is specifically and only for music. You’ll also be surrounded by like-minded individuals who can also help you achieve your goals and can possibly give you opportunities later on down the road. Whereas universities with a wide variety of disciplines can open your perspective to new ideas, people, and even majors you hadn’t thought of. You can take a variety of courses in a variety of subjects to broaden your experience and career potential. Break down the college all the way down to the departmental level. Are there certain degrees or programs that college is known for? If so, take a look and see what they are and if those degrees match up with what you want to do, place those schools higher on your list.

Consider also the location and what you want in a location. Do you like a big city or do you prefer something a little smaller? Is being close to family a priority for you? What’s the commute like? Be sure to consider how you feel on campus and off because those can also really affect your college experience. If you hate living with a ton of people, big cities like New York, LA, or even Salt Lake City may be too big for you so make sure you take location into consideration. Location matters!

Take a look at the academic rates for your colleges. What’s the graduation rate like? Job placement rate? Or how about even acceptance rate? These measures can tell you a lot about the college like the kinds of students they accept, what the education you’ll receive will be like and how likely you are to finish at that particular college. Job placement rates can help give you an idea of what the facts are regarding your field and how likely you are to get a job in that area upon graduating. This can be a huge factor when deciding where to go to college because these rates can help you make sure that you are spending your money at an institution that will give you the best return on that money. Some colleges may offer a cheap, flexible option for finishing your degree, but they may not have reputable programs that are accepted by employers. Make sure to do your research on the general perception of the colleges you are looking at as well. That matters a lot when it comes to getting a job afterwards. 

You should always compare universities and pick the best one for you because college can affect the rest of your life so you owe it to yourself to make the best informed decision that you can. Choosing between universities can be a difficult decision but armed with information and your own goals, you can make the best decision possible for you and your future.