Choosing which college you will attend is a huge decision. From the big things, like picking a major and financing your higher education, to smaller things such as extracurriculars and what kind of food options are available, there are so many factors to take into account. Whether you’re about to finish your senior year of high school and have no idea what’s next on your horizon, or you’ve decided it's time to go back to school after spending some time in the workforce, here are a few tips to help you during your decision making process.
What do you want to study?
Some people have known what they want to do for their entire lives. They’ve spend multiple halloweens dressing up as doctors, told their parents they want to be lawyers when they grow up, or taken every photography elective possible since middle school. Others aren’t so sure. If you are dead set on a field of study, that should be a major factor in your college decisions. If law, film, business, or what have you is where you know you want to be, schools that excel in those areas should be at the top of your list. On the other hand, if you’re less sure of your intended area of study, there are many universities that don’t require you to declare a major until your second year, or make it very easy to switch departments.
Student Debt Is No Fun
Nobody wants to graduate with a huge pile of debt to their name. Higher education is no small investment, so finances are another big thing to consider. Going to school in-state versus out-of-state is a huge consideration as tuitions out-of-state and at private universities is typically significantly more expensive than instate at public schools. Attending a community college for the first two years is a great way to save money, as the tuition is significantly cheaper, and at the end of four years you’ll have the same degree but much less debt. Finally, researching various scholarship for your areas of interest and tailored to your background are other great ways to reduce the cost of education. There are many smaller scholarships of under $5,000 available to specific types of students, and even if a scholarship is only $1,000 that’s a grand less coming out of your pocket!
Think “Best Fit” Not “Best School”
Some people will tell you the best university is an Ivy League, or whoever is the leader in your industry. In reality, if you have no interest in studying law or becoming a lawyer, Harvard Law School probably shouldn't be your goal. Instead, you should think about your priorities and try to find the school that’s the best fit for you. Of course brand name schools look good on your resume, however there are thousands of successful professionals in film who did not attend a big name film school. Is having a small class size important to you? Hands on classes? Are you looking for professors who will know your name and give you the time of day? Shifting your mindset to discover the best fit for you, rather than chasing after what others perceive is the “best school” is an easy way to make the most of your college search process.
Location Location Location
Are you dying to get out of the tiny town you’ve lived in for years? Or are you hoping to go home to do your laundry on the weekends? Location is a huge factor to consider when choosing a college. Big cities offer the advantages of close proximity to industry professionals and internship opportunities. Others prefer to be out of the hustle and bustle of the city and benefit from a lower cost of living in rural areas. Whether you’ve lived somewhere cold your whole life and are hoping to get out of the snow or are looking to get your foot in the door of an up and coming tech-centric city, location should be a key priority on your list of considerations.
What are your priorities outside of the classroom?
When it comes to higher education, the classroom takes priority. However, you don’t stop being you when you become a student. For some people, their priority is to get in and out of college as fast as they can to have added credentials and get a raise at their current job. Some students want to take advantage of internships and hands on projects while in school, and build a community in the classroom. Other people’s first priority is to attend a university close enough to be home for dinner every night. Whatever type of student you are, it's important to take external factors into account so you can holistically make the most of your college experience.
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