Choosing a College

How to Choose the Best College for You

When you are in high school, one of the hardest choices you will have to make is what direction to go after you earn your diploma. Some may choose to enter the work force or the military right away, but more than likely, you will attend some type of post secondary school. These options include trade schools, community colleges, liberal arts colleges, technical schools, online colleges, public universities and private universities. Many students will choose a school that will fit both their education goals and their budget. We will talk about the different college options and how choosing a college is one of the most important choices you will make for your future career.

Public Colleges

Public traditional colleges are those that are state colleges and universities that are funded largely by state funds so they cost less money than private colleges. Just like online schools, these offer anything from an associate’s degree to a doctorate. More commonly, public colleges are designed for students to earn a bachelor’s degree to start and then build upon that degree with a graduate program as well.

Choosing a college that is in the state where you currently have residence is a good idea for several reasons. For one, you are confident in the location of the college and are familiar with the surroundings. The second reason is that attending a college with in-state tuition costs significantly less than choosing a college in another state and paying out of state tuition and fees. Sometimes there is a college in another state that offers a specific specialized program that you might be interested in that would make the cost worthwhile, but most times, many public colleges offer similar programs from state to state.

Private Colleges

Another post secondary education option is a private college. These institutions do not receive state funding to run their school but instead rely on endowments, student tuition and donations from alumni from the school. Private colleges tend to cost a bit more than public (although the gap is decreasing), but it can depend on the school, and many of them offer fabulous amounts of financial aid. Some employers may be more apt to hiring someone with a degree from a prestigious private college as well. If the options you have result in significant price differences, you should weigh the option of accumulating more student debt at a private college if you choose to go that route versus attending a public college.

There are also vastly different types of private colleges, varying by size of student population and majors offered. For example, Randolph-Macon College, a liberal arts school in Virginia, enrolls just over 1,300 students, and the University of Southern California, another private institution, is home to 43,000 students.

Technical Schools, Trade Schools and Community Colleges

Some types of careers only require the employee to be trained in a technical school, trade (vocational) school or a community college. A technical (vocational) school and trade school both teach job specific skills to prepare the students for obtaining a job in that field.

Trade schools can teach job skills in areas such as computerized numerical control (CNC) machining, industrial maintenance, diesel technician, welding, CDL training, and building construction just to name a few. These schools generally cost less than other types of postsecondary education and have great pay off with a high employment rate in most career areas for graduates of trade schools. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a machinist can earn around $19 per hour on average.

Technical or vocational schools also prepare students in the same way that trade schools do. These schools cover areas from metal working and carpentry to cosmetology and culinary arts.

Community colleges mostly provide the students with either preliminary course work to use if they choose to attend a four year college or an associate’s degree. Degree programs from these colleges vary from school to school but are comprised of areas such as dental hygiene, aviation maintenance, automotive technology, paralegal studies, radiology, radiography, nursing (both LPN and nursing certificate programs) real estate, veterinary technology and massage therapy just to name a few. Several of these types of jobs have the potential to earn a competitive living wage for you to live comfortably and be able to pay off any student loans you may have accumulated.

Choosing a College

No matter what type of college you decide on, just be sure it will help you meet your overall career goals you have set for yourself. You can achieve all of your dreams when you find the best college to fit your needs.


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