According to The New York Times in 2014, 65.9% of high school graduates will attend college. Though I’m still in my first semester, I think I made the right decision in what college I chose. For me at least, these are the factors I had to think about before applying for schools.

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College is expensive, and it’s continuing to become more expensive. When looking at colleges you need to consider what kind of education you are getting for your money.

Today most high schools offer dual credit classes that for the most part can be transferred to colleges. While in high school, I was able to get 33 credit hours (a little over one year) done before I even graduated. Where I’m from a lot of students attend a 2-year community college before transferring to a state college or larger school. They can save thousands of dollars this way and get their general education courses done so that when they transfer they can start taking classes towards their bachelor’s degree.

Contrary to popular belief, you are getting almost an identical education at a community college to a state or private school. Students also need to explore opportunities that aren’t their first choice schools. You should apply to multiple schools, but you need to think about the money you’re spending. Sure, going to a big college with successful sports teams and parties is all fun and games… until you have to pay it back. Doing research on schools around you is an important part of deciding where you should apply.

Scholarship opportunities should also be a factor in your choice. Free money is free money. Look at financial aid packages too. Getting loans from the school is easier than getting private student loans.  

 

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For many, the location of the school plays a significant role in school choice. The decision of going to college close or far away from home isn’t the easiest to make.

The setting of the campus is essential as well. Do you want to attend a traditional college town, be in a city, or attend a rural county college?

My favorite thing about sticking around my home is that on the weekends I get to see my friends and family. Even though I’m living on campus the first year, next year I’ll be able to commute back and forth. My school is in the largest city in my state, but it doesn’t feel like a college town. Most students are from around here and commute everyday. Plus, I don’t have to learn a whole new city, and I already know the hot spots.

 

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Another topic to consider is the student population of the school. With small schools, you can most likely get more hands-on training and help from teachers. Also, these schools normally are more focused on the education and you get to know people better.

Traditional large schools are mainly lecture classes. Larger schools tend to have more diversity in the students and staff and offer a more extensive range of majors and activities on campus.

I’ve found a middle ground in a mid-sized state school. Though I do have some large lecture hall classes of 70+ students, my major based classes are smaller (usually less than 25 students a class).

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You might want to go to the same school with your friends or a party school. None of that matters if the school doesn’t offer your major.

For me, I could’ve chosen almost any state school for my anthropology degree. Luckily my school that’s only 30 minutes away from home is the best in the state. Look for schools with unique opportunities for your degree. For example, my school offers hands-on experience working at a museum on campus.  

 

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Is it close enough for you to commute? Does the school offer on-campus living? Living on campus is awesome but does get expensive.

 

I’m sure I’m missing a few different factors, but if you have any suggestions leave a comment below.

 

-G.Tolley