Rebecca here again! With spring in the air, I am most excited about my local ice-cream parlors reopening! I wanted to write about beginning your college search and I couldn’t help comparing how the decisions you make regarding your school are similar to ordering a frozen treat! While at school, I worked as a freshman resident advisor. I know decision-making can be hard, but if you really think about what YOU want, you will have a great first year at the perfect school for you! Have any questions? Make sure to send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are 7,021 post-secondary title IV institutions (colleges and universities) in the United States and there are even more world-wide! That’s quite a lot of choices for a decision you will hopefully have to make one time. Can you imagine choosing one Sundae out of 7,000 possible choices that you would eat for the next four years!? Luckily, many schools offer the same basic package and this is where your personal preferences come into play. Each school, like different ice cream flavors, will have its pros and cons. I’ve broken down the college process into the steps of ordering an ice cream sundae because who doesn’t like ice cream? Creating your perfect Sundae of a school can be tricky but these few tips can help you find the school with the best harmony of flavors for you!
Being realistic about necessity and affordability
Any time you walk into an ice cream shop, you know the first thing you’ll be asked: “Small, Medium or Large?” Sorry, there aren’t any “kiddie” sizes being offered here! You’re ready to go to school on your own and become an adult! First you must decide what size school you want to attend. You may not have had a lot of choice in the size of the high school you attended, but not anymore! You now are confronted with the ability to choose where to spend the next four years. Picking can be easy if you know your likes and dislikes. Do you like the class sizes you had in high school? Would you want to attend classes that have more or fewer other students in them? Do you mind attending lectures with 100 other students? Would you feel a responsibility to attend class even if you are a number to your professor? Do you feel comfortable with a small college community? Answering these questions and being honest with yourself will already set you up with a list of your eligible schools. I put this first because I believe your decision here knocks out many choices and focuses your search for the rest of the process.
So, now you have a general idea of what size you want to order. But before selecting that size, you are probably going to need to check how much cash you have in your pocket! So you check out the board of prices and realize this frozen dessert is going to cost you more than you thought. Sometimes the sticker price of your school is much larger than you and/or your family is willing to commit. Barring any scholarships you are awarded, student debt after school is a major problem for graduates right now. Just as you would never want to start eating your ice cream only to find you forgot your wallet at home, you do not want to put your family in a financial situation that is overwhelming after a year and is difficult to get out of later on. Make sure you are realistic about what you can afford at this time. Maybe two years at a community college would help you better afford your dream school when you transfer. Perhaps in-state tuition would put less stress on your bank account than an out-of-state one. Consider if you only need a two year to begin your dream job or advance to the position you want within your career. Talk with your parents and decide on a range of prices you are comfortable with. This does not mean you should not take a chance on a higher priced school, because you may receive enough aid to afford it. Just make sure you know what your family will consider to be “enough”.
Great! Now that you have a general idea about the size you want and can afford, your on your way to ordering the best Sundae ever! but you are not close to done yet! Check back soon for a discussion about your next choices! Hopefully making these decisions can help get you started on your college application process!
[i] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). Digest of Education Statistics, 2012 (NCES 2014-015),Chapter 2., http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=84