When choosing a college, students often look for the best academic institutions. While it’s hard to argue with that approach, high school students facing the decision of where to spend the next four years of their lives should know that the right university is not necessarily the one with the best academic reputation.
A host of factors come into play when finding the right match between student and university. Academics should always carry the most weight, but students should consider a host of other factors before ultimately deciding where to continue their academic careers.
In a perfect world students would not have to worry about financing their college educations. But that’s not a world in which today’s students live, so the cost of a college education is something nearly every college-bound student must consider before making his or her decision. According to the College Board, the average overall cost to attend in-state public college for the 2012-13 academic year for students who did not receive financial aid was $22,261, a nearly 4 percent increase from the previous school year. That sticker price includes the cost of living in a dorm, food, books, and the additional expenses college students typically have. And the College Board notes that, despite the cost increase, financial aid budgets stayed the same as the year before, meaning even those students who received financial aid paid more money.
While cost should not dictate where high school students ultimately go to college, students should know that eventually student loans will have to be repaid with interest, so those who do not want to bury themselves in student loan debt after graduation would be wise to choose a university that’s more affordable or one that’s offering a more attractive scholarship and grant package. Unlike student loans, scholarships and grants do not have to be repaid.
Distance from Home
While many high school students may think a school far away from their folks is ideal, the reality of being far away from home is a struggle for many college students who attend college outside of their home states. Homesickness is a very real thing for college students who are away from home and on their own for the first time.
In addition to homesickness, college-bound students should consider the cost of travel before enrolling in a college or university that’s far from home. Mom and Dad might not be able to afford to fly their college students home several times per year for the holidays and other breaks in the school year, and the burden of financing that travel can fall on students. If you are not planning to work during the school year, then financing trips home may prove very difficult.
Both the academic and social environments at a college or university merit consideration when students are deciding where to continue their education. Some students thrive in a competitive academic environment, while others tend to fare better in a more casual setting. Students should assess which environment is best for them and choose a university that best suits them as a student.
A college or university’s social environment is another factor for students to consider. Larger schools tend to rely heavily on Greek life, while smaller schools may be more intimate and less exclusive. Students who hope to join a sorority or fraternity might benefit from a school with a thriving Greek life, while those who want a more intimate social environment might prefer a smaller school where all of the students seem to know one another.