Saving Time and Money Choosing The Right College

Choosing the “right” college is one of the most important decisions when it comes to saving money on tuition. If the college fits the student’s personality, the probability is high that the student will graduate with a degree in four years and obtain a job afterward; that can add up to a lot of money!

There are many factors involved in the college decision-making process, all of which require considerable research on the student’s part. This research should be centered on the following twenty key factors and which are the most important to the student and family:

  • Location

  • Size

  • Athletic programs

  • Talent programs

  • Special programs

  • Diversity

  • Greek system

  • Housing

  • Food

  • Weather

  • Co-op programs

  • Job placement

  • Religion

  • Attrition

  • Student/faculty ratio

  • Faculty with Ph.D.s

  • Campus setting

  • Campus safety

  • Drug/alcohol policy

  • Student body reputation

Below are some additional questions students should ask themselves to better prepare for the college search process:

1) How far from home do you want to be? It’s time to deal with the reality of who you are and if you want to be close to home or further away. If the college is a considerable distance from your home, it may interfere with your parents' ability to visit you when you are there; this may be especially important if you’d like them to see you in an athletic event or stage performance. It also affects how frequently you can go home, so it’s important to consider the ease and cost of arranging for transportation to and from home.

2) Have you identified a major, career direction, or general area of study? If not, that is a critical question to answer. To fine-tune this process, consider taking a career development survey to help determine possible career directions. Many students enter college with an area of interest only to change their direction while in college, while others still have yet to make up their mind about a career direction or major. Colleges understand this and, as a result, many colleges allow students to begin college as "undecided" about a major.

3) What type of surrounding environment is most suitable for you? Think in terms of urban, suburban, and rural environments. When in a large city, or close to a large city, it may exert a powerful influence on you and your collegiate experience. Is this what you are looking for? Suburban locations may seem like an ideal balance between urban and rural, but if you’d like to be in the woods or hills, they can still be quite a distance from you. At the same time - even in a suburban location - unless the college offers easy transportation from your campus, the city can be quite difficult to access. The rural environment is probably ideal for someone who wants to be away from external influences and close to the hills and woodlands they enjoy but can be dreadful for someone who needs the excitement, energy, and offerings of a major city.

4) Academically, what degree of challenge is best for you? How do you respond to high-pressure environments? Are you looking for a school where you can participate in activities or one where most of your time can be devoted to classwork? Are you comfortable with the idea that you may be near the middle or lower part of your college class, or do you prefer being near the top? These questions relate directly to the demands and intensity of a college situation, and how you respond is important to both your academic success and emotional well-being over the next several years.

5) Have you considered selectivity and how to overcome it? Selectivity in the admissions process is a key consideration when formulating a final list of college applications. There are degrees of selectivity in admissions, as some colleges admit only 10% - 15% of applicants while some on the other end of the spectrum admit virtually all applicants. You may apply to your dream school regardless of the degree of difficulty in being admitted, but be sure that you apply to schools which have less-rigorous admissions standards.

6) Are internships, co-op programs, study abroad, independent study, core curriculum, and required courses important to you? If any of these are in your "must-have" or "avoid" lists, make them part of your college search.

7) Do you want to continue your high school activities or investigate new interests? Sports, clubs, and activities may have been important to you in high school. What is available in each campus community that appeals to you?

8) Are you and your family members on the same page? Cost is a concern for most families and each family must determine its own level of financial comfort. It is vital that all families discuss limits early on in the process and equally important to recognize that financial aid is available to families of ALL income-levels who understand the system. The right financial strategies can yield the same out-of-pocket cost regardless of whether the college costs $30,000 per year or $70,000 per year.

Students enter college from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and graduate into a workforce with specific sets of skills, knowledge, and attitudes shaped by very diverse experiences. No two graduates are alike, and no two schools are alike. The right college choice can make a major positive difference in the student's future, and the wrong choice could cost families a bundle, not to mention an unhappy graduate.

If your family needs assistance in choosing the right college for your student while lowering overall costs, give us a call at 949-270-2779. We may be able to save your family considerable money on your college expenses.

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