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What You Should Know Before Picking A School
Graduating high school and going off to college is the most exciting transition of your life! Or so I was told. I come from a not-so-rich family and neither of my parents went to college. Therefore, neither of them had any helpful tips as to how to apply, where to apply, what it all meant, and what to look for! Many students are privileged and receive great scholarships, have wealthy (well, wealthier than me) families, have guidance from a parent or loved one who went to college, or even older siblings or friends who have mastered the process. Well, here's to those who don't have those cool privileges and here's to those that do but are still interested in the extra information!
First thing to consider is what type of school you'd like to attend. There are public universities, private universities, state colleges, and also online degrees for all of the above (I understand there are vocational schools and such but I am not very knowledgeable on that aspect). School size is a good place to start with where you'd rather go. Public universities are usually the bigger campuses with about 15,000 students or more (usually on the more side). This means that there are plenty of students for you to become friends with, multiple cliques you can fall into, and never-ending parties. There are vast amounts of socializing available but it can be very impersonal until you find your niche. Think of public universities as a "small fish in a big pond" scenario. Private universities are usually populated with around 5,000 students and below. This can be great because you will see most of the same people every day. Whether they are in your class, in the cafeteria, or you see them just in passing, you will see the same people and have an opportunity to become friends with just about all of them. Think of this as a "big fish in a small pond" type scenario. Then there are state colleges which can be very helpful for those who do not have major funds for spending 4 years at a public or private university. State colleges vary greatly in their population size depending on the campus location. My local state college's main campus had roughly 25,000 people attend in 2016 but the other campuses based in other cities had between 2,000 and 5,000. These colleges are usually much cheaper but don't typically offer many 4-year degrees. It would be beneficial to get your AA at a state college and then transfer to another college to finish your degree. Online programs are great because regardless of which school you choose population size won't effect you except for when enrolling in classes.
Let's talk about the cost because for many, including me, this was the deal breaker on most decisions. Unfortunately, I didn't have guidance for getting into college so I have been through private universities, state colleges, public universities, and online programs with many mistakes made at each stop! But that will be a story for another day to anyone who is interested. This will be brief because if I went in-depth I'd be here for ages. I'll make another article going more in-depth on the costs and hidden money traps of college. Private universities cost the most in general because you're paying for the private education and university name on your diploma and are roughly around $50,000/year range. Public universities cost much less but will still require a big chunk of change, generally somewhere around $20,000/year for state residents and $35,000/year for out-of-state residents (information via College Board). State colleges vary but my local state college is about $5,000/year for in-state residents. Keep in mind: These costs are on average. Each university charges different amounts for tuition, room/board, books, and extra campus fees. Most online programs are charged per credit hour. I am currently doing an online degree through a public university and paying $130/credit hour and taking about 14 credit hours per semester as well as buying my books separately.
I won't go too much into loans, work-study programs, scholarships, grants, etc., at this time but keep in mind that all of these are available to you. Stay away from loans if at all possible. Apply for as many scholarships as possible and do the annoying lengthy assignments they ask for. Check out the grants available for your area as well. If you plan to work in college, a work-study program could be a good fit for you. I wish I knew about them before I applied to my first year of college because there is paperwork you need to do in advance in order to be eligible. Use loans as a last resort and only if your heart is set on that school. Add up your loans and estimate the interest you will have built up after 4 years and ask yourself if that is something you want to be responsible for paying once you graduate.
Comments and questions are welcome as well as suggestions for informational articles you guys would like to see! I have been doing this life thing on my own for quite some time and if there's anything important I learned it would be the more questions you can ask the better off you'll be. I didn't have anyone to ask my questions to so I learned by trial and error. Don't be me! Ask all you can and I will answer all I can. It doesn't need to be college related. Let me know below!
Good luck my friends!
TL;DR: Don't be lazy, go and read it. You're getting ready for college! Don't choose now to get lazy.
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© 2017 Ashleigh Weldon