Choosing a Future

When deciding which college to attend, make sure to take these five factors into consideration.

By Claudine Vainrub Principal of Eduplan

Do you realize that a A could be the largest expense a family makes after a home purchase? That means making the wrong choice of colleges can become a costly mistake. With more than 4,000 higher education institutions in the U.S., there are plenty of options that will cater to your individual needs. The question is: Which one provides the best fit for you? Here are five important factors to review when making your selection: Sm all college, or large university?

Do you want to attend a school where you will know a lot of your fellow students, or do you long for the diverse social and academic environment offered by a university with 40,000 students? There are excellent colleges at both ends of the spectrum, so it’s important to examine the benefits and drawbacks of each. For example, a large school is more likely to have a wide variety of majors, classes, student organizations, and activities. If you are undecided on your field of study, a wider range of majors to choose from might help in your quest to make a career decision.

A smaller school offers a more intimate environment, more personalized attention, low student-to-faculty ratios and possibly more direct access to your profesors. In small schools, every student counts, directly contribuing to enhance the community. Seek the type of school that allows you to achieve your maximum potential in every aspect of higher education—academic, social, personal and professional.

Public vs. Private
The main difference between public and private universities is price. For example, compare the costs of attending a top public school, like the University of California at Berkeley ($8,353 in-state, $31,022 out-of-state), with the cost of prestigious private universities such as Harvard, Columbia or Cornell, where you can expect to pay more than $50,000 in tuition and fees per year. With financial aid included, chances are you’ll still pay more than $20,000 each year at a private school, plus another $10,000+ for room and board. Think about what will happen when graduating with a large college loan debt; consider the projected salary for your chosen career and the possibility and feasibility of making monthly loan repayments. It is not necessary to graduate from the most expensive university in order to achieve your professional goals. Attending public universities can help you graduate debt-free and still keep doors open for selective graduate programs. So evaluate your options while taking under consideration affordability

Campus Life
A graduate from an urban university in Florida once shared with me his frustration with the lack of weekend activities at the school. He had nothing to look forward to outside the university and felt bored and isolated on weekends. However, this type of college life may be better suited to students interested in taking advantage of the city in which the school is located, or to those who wish to keep close ties with family and friends in the area.
Campus life is an important aspect to consider when choosing schools. Schools located in suburban or rural campuses often bring film festivals, concert series or more community-based social events. Urban schools come with the advantages that large cities offer as career hubs, cultural and sports centers, among other traits. Make sure to find a campus that fits your lifestyle and interests.

Most schools in America today recognize the importance of diversity and strive to ensure their campuses satisfy the needs of their diverse populations. For example, Orthodox Jews needing to observe dietary restrictions will find many schools that offer kosher meal plans. For Hispanics, many schools have an established student-run Hispanic organization, along with ties to the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. Consider what is important to you and make sure that the school you choose provides the opportunities for you to feel right at home and able to keep your traditions. Evaluate where you will be accepted as you are, respected, and even sought out as a student providing a perspective that enriches the experience of others on your campus.

College Rankings
A popular way to choose a college is by college rankings. Google “college rankings” and you’ll find that schools are rated by organizations like U.S. News & World Report on a wide variety of categories such as “Highest (and Lowest) Acceptance Rate,” “Top Public Schools,” and “Best Nursing Programs.” However, college rankings should only serve as a guide and never the sole factor on which to base your choice of school. Rankings change every year, and they cannot directly address your needs of fit with a school. They assess a school’s proficiency in many areas and far too often fail at being accurate by not taking under consideration the soft aspects of the college education. Use rankings as a tool to learn more about a school’s areas of strength, but research the school on your own to ensure it is right for you.

When choosing colleges by looking at fit, you are increasing your chance of receiving a positive educational experience that will allow you to grow and achieve your career aspirations. In this way, you will ensure that this significant investment will have an amazing return in satisfaction, professional opportunities and personal growth.