It’s the beginning of April and college acceptance notices are starting to find their way to homes everywhere. There’s joy. There’s disappointment.
More importantly, it’s time to decide where to spend your next four years.
Everything you considered when you chose colleges to apply to is more important now and worth a second look. Four years is a long time and a lot of money.
So as you consider where you want to enroll, start by remembering why you want a college education in the first place. Here are some thoughts to help you.
A college education should provide you with a satisfying career, allow you to reach your personal goals, let you to make a good income, and finally, not burden you with a large amount of debt to repay. It’s also a place where you’re going to spend the next four years of your life. So it needs to be a fit with your social, emotional, and community needs also.
Here’s another reason why your choice is important.
You pay money for college. It’s a service you buy. You want to make sure you get a return on a very large investment of your money and time.
Not everyone does his or her research. In fact, I always find it interesting that some people do more research when buying $15,000 car than they do when buying a $150,000 college education.
If you don’t carefully consider what a college has to offer, the chances of an unhappy freshman year and the need to transfer increase.
Now, the majority of students are perfectly happy with their choice. But I’ve known enough unhappy freshmen that I felt the need to spend a little tie on the topic. Not only is transferring disruptive, but it usually ends up costing you time, stress, and money.
I’ve spoken with many students (and many parents of those students) who transferred schools after their first year. There were four reasons that promoted them to transfer and to help you avoid a similar fate. I’ve described each of the four below.
Take a second to consider each of these before you say yes to a school.
1. Distance from Home
To prevent this, ponder what it will be like to be away from home for a long period of time. Are you someone that never liked travelling too far from home by yourself? Maybe it was summer camp or staying with a relative. Did you get homesick easily?
Reflecting on those experiences will help you make a better decision.
2. Size of the College
Different size colleges offer different types of opportunities and communities.
Larger schools have more and varied educational opportunities, but they aren’t for everyone. For some students, it’s harder to find a sense of community in a large school. And if you’re someone that thrives in a small, family-like atmosphere, a large school may not be for you.
However, if you love having a large choice of educational and social opportunities, a larger school will probably be a better fit. In fact, you may feel very constricted in a small school.
3. Your Major
Another reason students transfer is because the major they finally decide on isn’t offered at their school. This is usually only a problem at smaller schools.
If you haven’t decided on a career path or field, you have to accept the fact that, when you finally do make a decision, you may have fewer options at a smaller school.
If you are considering a smaller school, look carefully at the programs and degree opportunities because eventually you will have to choose from the programs they have.
If you haven’t decided on your future career area, there are a couple of things you can do to help make sure your school will have the program you want.
Even if you don’t know exactly what you want to be when you grow up, try to at least think about what field or subject area you are interested in (e.g., science, health, writing, etc.), and look at what the college offers. Every college usually lists their programs and courses in the “Academics” section of their website.
While you’re looking at programs, try actually choosing what courses you would want to take, especially during junior and senior year. This is always an eye-opening and helpful exercise for many potential enrollees.
Even though it may be scary, take the time to sit down and actually plan your expenses for all four years. Then, figure out how you’ll pay for them. You can either do it now or do it later when it’s too late for you to do anything about them.
Many people assume the money will come from somewhere because it did for everyone else. Don’t fall into that trap. As scary as it may be, looking at costs now may prevent the need to transfer to a lower cost school later.
To help you analyze your costs, Congress has mandated that every college list the cost to attend their school on their website. You can use Google or another search engine to easily find that information (input the college’s name + “cost of attendance”).
Congress also required schools to have a “Net Price Calculator” on their website. Net price calculators let you enter in your financial information and provide you with an estimated “net price.” Net price is the actual price you will pay for college. Essentially it’s the cost of the college minus any financial aid you receive in the form of grants and scholarships.
Making a final decision on college is not easy. Spending time carefully considering all your options is important and will lead to a positive four years and a future career.