Aug 17, 2009

Picking the Right College

Last week we took a look at senior year and the process of applying to college. This week, we’re going a bit backwards and taking a look at what to look for when the moment comes to start picking out the college for you.

A lot goes into the decision-making process for something this important, and many consider price to be one of the most narrowing aspects of college choice. Prestige, public vs. private, and popularity are all contributors to the bottom line of annual tuition. However, it’s important to remember that financial aid is in place to help those in need get to college. The more in need a student is, the more likely they are to receive aid. If you think you qualify for this kind of support, do as much research as you can into the types of financial aid available. Although application processes are often lengthy and exhaustive, the reward could be a free ride to the school of your

Many people believe that community colleges are a viable alternative to a full stint at a four-year institution. Getting a bargain price on that pricey diploma may sound tempting, but take the advice of Beth Pickett, host of “Countdown to College Radio”: "Community colleges are inexpensive, but many also have a surprisingly low rate of sending students on to a four-year college. Many students who start out at community college never get their bachelor's degree.” Getting all the classes you need is often challenging, and could take much more than the 2-year allotment you give it. However, this is still an option that is possible, but you must be highly motivated to pull it off.

Next, consider where you would like to live. Do you like sun and sand, or snowboards and scarves? Big-city lights or wide-open country? Down the road from Mom and Dad, or several states in-between? Location really is everything when you think about the amount of time you will spend doing things other than studying. Try to imagine all the fun activities that might encompass.

Size is also a critical part to choosing the right school. While some prefer small classes, with a tight professor-student connection, others like giant lecture halls and massive crowds. The smaller you go, the more intimate your relationships will be, both with the faculty and other students. With bigger student populations comes more diversity and experiences. Those with an independent streak may prefer a larger school, while individuals who prefer contact might want to stick with something smaller. Beth delved a bit deeper into this particular topic in a previous "Countdown to College Radio" broadcast, which can be found here.

So much has to go into picking the right school that a lot of students forget one of the most crucial parts to the whole process- your intuition. While objectivity is great, your gut should also have a say. And remember, the best choice is always going to be one that you make.

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