Tips: Choosing the Right College or University For You
Making the leap from high school to college is one the most important transitions in one's life. There are many difficult decisions that lead to this next level. Just imagine, you have to decide what you plan to spend the next 30+ years offering your talents being a productive member of society. This may be the time when you decide to fly out of your parents nest and test your wings in society. Whatever the circumstance may be, there are many factors that must be examined when picking the right school for you. Below I will shine a closer light to them.
Size: Large vs. Small
Would you feel comfortable amongst a crowd of 50,000 students? At a university of this magnitude, freshman introductory classes have lecture hall class with 300-400 students. You may not see the 25 to 1 student to teacher ratio until you begin taking your upper level major classes. Smaller colleges will have smaller class sizes but may have fewer course offerings. Student life will tend to be more diverse within the larger universities. There will be more cultural clubs and Greek organizations to choose from.
Location: City vs. Rural
Are you looking to get away and be void of the major distractions of the big city lights? Do you want to be able to leave campus and spend a night on town on weekends? These are some of the things to think about when choosing what type of setting you college will be located. If your school is located in the middle of nowhere, make sure everything you need is within close proximity (ie. Ohio University - Athens, Ohio). If not you will need to own a car (or a friend who does). Certain services to keep in mind include: the grocery store, the mall, clothing stores, car repair shop, places to eat, and movie theater.
2 year vs. 4 year colleges
Many students fall under the category of "undecided major" or truly may not know what they want to study when entering college. Others may not be getting much financial assistance for their tuition and fees. If this fits your description, a two year or community college may be the right solution for you. Most will offer excellent core coursework to get you going on the right track while saving you thousands of dollars. After completing your Associates degree, you will be able to transfer to a 4 year university for junior and senior year. In states like Florida, community colleges have a matriculation agreement with the 11 public universities, where as long as you complete your Associates degree you are guaranteed to be accepted by at least one university (not necessarily the one of your choice).
Proximity to Home
If you made the decision to attend a school outside of the area that you live there are a couple of things to consider. How far is too far? Many kids stay close enough (within a few hours) where they can come home for the weekends to do their laundry at their parents house. They may also come to visit their friends or girlfriend/boyfriend. Here's a warning however, if you live too close, your parents may want to visit too often. Conversely, living far away from home will force you to become independent and to learn important life lessons. If you know of a student who is surrounded by bad influences, shipping him away to a new environment may help. This will let him or her start anew and have a chance to latch onto positive individuals and groups.
In State vs. Out of State
There is one major factor when choosing whether or not to stay in-state, and that is money. Tuition is usually doubled for students who are not residents in the state that they live in. In order to receive resident status, you must live in that state for at least one year. There are also states that have programs geared towards rewarding their high achieving students for staying in school. Florida has a scholarship program called "Bright Futures" where Florida high school seniors will receive tuition assistance for staying in Florida and attending college or university (with qualifying GPA and test scores).
It is common for students entering college to not have a clear cut goal as to what they would like to do for the rest of their lives. For those students who do know, it is imperative to find and choose schools that offer your major. Most schools have a specific focus or specialty. The Engineering and Science Research programs at the University at Buffalo and the Meteorology program at the University of South Carolina are examples.
Accommodations for Non-Traditional Students
If you are a working professional, over 25 years of age, married, or returning back to school after a long hiatus, you may be looking for a different college experience. Finding the fastest route to your degree may be of interest to you. Getting the campus-life experience may be a secondary concern of yours. If so, there are many schools that have various options which include: online classes, express classes, and weekend classes/programs. This will allow you to function in the real world while earning credentials for your career. One way to determine if a college has a specific focus on non-traditional students is to find out their average undergraduate age. A large population of these schools do not have campus housing either(which puts a focus on commuter relations).
Do you want to experience that special feeling that comes on Saturday when your school plays their conference rival in football (ie. Michigan vs. Ohio State)? For a brief moment, nothing else will matter; your whole campus is engulfed in school spirit and pride. These highlights of your campus experience will stay with you for a lifetime. Is it a concern whether your athletic programs are Division I, II, or III? Or are you a student athlete who is looking to play at the next level at a college or university? Determine whether the schools you are interested in have your desired sport. Are they offering full or partial athletic scholarships?
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