Nothing is more stressful and exciting to an 18-year-old than picking the right college to go to after high school. Your whole academic life has led to this point. It’s also one of the most significant independent decisions you make as a freshly minted adult, but how do you know if a school is right for you?
First things first, knowing what you are going to college for can be a huge factor in where you decide to go. For example, if you want to be a nurse, it would make zero sense to go to a school that doesn’t have a nursing program. And if you don’t know what you want to do with your life, which is completely understandable at the ripe age of 18 or 19, then what do you do? All great questions. Here are a few things to think about when choosing your school:
The location of a school is a huge factor. More significant than one might think. You have to think about staying close to home or going as far away as possible. If you stay close to home, you probably get in-state tuition, and there is the option of living at home to save money. It also makes seeing your family for the holidays way easier.
The other thing to think about is whether or not the school is in a city or somewhere more rural. There are plenty of great schools located right next to cow pastures. So if you enjoy partying and cow tipping, you might like going to a school in the boonies, but if not, then maybe deciding on a school in a city might suit you better.
Worrying about the school’s academics is the most obvious on the list of things to think about when deciding on schools. If you already have an idea of what you want to do or what you want to study, then picking a school specializing in that program will only benefit you. If you have no idea what you want to do, why not sit back for your first two years and get your A.A. at a community college. You get to save money while still doing something productive instead of sitting around waiting. Earning a degree isn’t a race, and you shouldn’t have to spend thousands of dollars if you aren’t sure what you want to study.
School size is one where you can sacrifice if need be, but it’s still nice to put it when considering options. My high school graduating class was 25 people. I went to a really small private school, so I wanted to go to a big school in my first year of college. However, I hated every single minute of that place. It was too overwhelming for me. So I transferred to a small school my second year, and I thrived. Finding a comfortable place for the next few years will make the experience much more palatable.
Finances are the biggest deterrent to whether or not you can go to the school you want or not. If we could all afford Ivy League school, then why not go? There is also the difference between out-of-state and in-state tuition you have to think about when deciding. Does it make financial sense to go out of state to get a teaching degree and rack up student loans that you could never pay back on a teacher’s salary? Having a degree from certain universities is nice but is the payoff worth the actual degree?
Is Traditional College Right for Me?
Traditional 4-year colleges are not for everyone.
Some people don’t like to sit in a classroom for hours on end and listen to lectures. We all know people who hated school, and once they got out, they never wanted to go back. Some people want to go into professions that don’t require a 4-year degree.
What sort of options are there for you?
Trade jobs and blue-collar workers make some serious bank. My friend went to a trade school for plumbing and makes more money a year than I will probably ever see, and he skipped the four-year college experience. Learning a trade has its pros and cons, but if university isn’t for you, maybe take a look into trade schools, technical schools, or beauty schools. The options are pretty limitless.
Up until this point in our lives, most of our major decisions are out of our hands. Maybe your parents allowed you to have input on certain things, but they had the final say. Picking a college or trade school is one of the first big major life decisions you will make as an adult, and it can feel overwhelming at times. But having a checklist of things you want from a school can help ease that feeling.
Regardless of where you go or what you study, the key is to keep learning and to keep growing.