To savor the little time you have on earth, you need to narrow down your search before even launching that web browser.
The summer before my senior year of high school, I spent several hours a week browsing colleges online. I researched every kind of college you can imagine: public, private, secular, Christian and so on. Only months later did I realize that staying in-state made sense, which left me with three schools to choose from.
Several hours wasted.
To savor the little time you have on earth, you need to narrow down your search before even launching that web browser. Here are three questions to ask yourself before college shopping.
1. Should I go to a private or public school?
Deciding between a private and public institution contains more factors than you may think.
First, private schools tend to cost more money than public schools, since they lack government funding. Are you willing to dish out the extra cash? If you can’t score scholarships or grants, will your post-college job pay you enough to comfortably handle your monthly student loan payments?
Next, how important is education to you? In many cases, private schools rise above public schools in academic ranking. But this isn’t always true.
The University of Missouri is better than any private school when it comes to journalism and the University of Washington has a better medical school than Brown University.
You need to research the best schools for your major and decide if spending the extra cash makes sense for your field.
Lastly, what kind of college experience are you going for? A small school with a laid-back vibe? Probably a private school. A big school with energetic school spirit? Public school. A school with a biblical worldview? Private Christian school. A commuter school? Public. Craft your ideal college experience and pick accordingly.
2. Should I stay in-state or go out of state?
In-state vs. out-of-state is more than just a question of money. Yes, finances play a large factor when deciding this, since obviously out-of-state schools almost always cost more, but there are other things to consider.
The biggest question to ask is if you’re ready to leave home.
While I recommend everyone move away from their hometown at least once to grow as a person, maybe that’s not for you. Maybe being away from family and friends will be too hard on you. Maybe prior commitments (a relationship, a sick family member, etc.) prevent you from leaving home.
Or perhaps you just want to say proudly, “I’ve been here my whole life… born and raised, baby!”
But even if you’d rather stay close to home, maybe you shouldn’t.
Maybe you need to challenge yourself as a person. Maybe the out-of-state school will lead to better job opportunities after college or will open your mind to new cultures and ideas.
It might be time to get out of your comfort zone. Think about that first and then decide if the extra cash is worth the move.
Keep in mind, though, that you can always move away after college if you so choose. I had friends from Las Vegas who wanted to leave Las Vegas in the worst way, but they earned their degrees from Las Vegas colleges before bailing to pursue their dreams.
You are never bound to anywhere your whole life. You can always make a slow, more planned-out escape.
3. Should I complete my degree online or on campus?
This question has only become relevant recently, with the rise of many legitimate online schools. But you really need to deeply reflect on your own habits and preferences before reaching a conclusion. Let’s compare and contrast.
Taking the traditional, on-campus route let’s you enjoy the campus experience: the Greek life, the dorms, the shared suffering. It allows you to be in the presence of scholars, meet new people for study sessions and receive hands-on learning. An online education, on average, misses this.
However, if you have kids or don’t want to leave your small town, then an online degree could work for you. You can earn it from anywhere, set your own hours and pace and maybe even learn more effectively (some people absorb information better at a slower, self-pace).
But you need to be honest with yourself: Are you self-disciplined? Will you remember to do homework, read the materials on your own and not let Netflix suck you in?
Completing a degree at home comes with its own set of challenges that you must consider before committing to this route.
After you’ve answered these questions, you will have narrowed your search down tremendously. Make sure to answer them honestly, though, to ensure you have the most fruitful college experience possible.
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