The Tale of Two Colleges—which one should you choose? A brand-name college with no offer for aid or a less prestigious university with an attractive financial package.
Assuming an ability to meet college costs at either of these choices, which do you choose? And how do you actually make the selection? Will choosing the more prestigious school guarantee a better career, a higher salary?
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Current research shows that the old cliché— It’s not where you go, it’s what you do—really holds water. With that in mind, it’s most important that incoming college students be in touch with their needs and goals before making the life-defining decision, and not allow labels to be a huge distraction to decision-making.
With May 1st, aka National College Decision Day, being just around the corner, Road2College has put together a list of four crucial strategies to guide you before signing over that enrollment deposit.
Be Mindful of Your Major
First and foremost, do your top options have your major? If one does, and the other does not—then the answer to the more-often-than-not (give or take) $50,000 question is a no-brainer. It does no good to go to a highfalutin college that boasts the finest liberal arts curriculum around when you plan on getting an engineering degree. Going to a cheaper, less glamorous college that has a science-accredited program takes the cake anytime.
What if both options have your major?
As mentioned above, it’s not the name of the college that matters—rather it’s the substance and strength of the programs available. However, for certain majors, specifically business, and to a lesser extent, social science and education, attending the better-ranked institution does have its advantages. Those who attended top schools for business earn 12 percent more than their peers who went to schools that were in the middle of the pack.
All in all, the correct choice goes to the college with the program that will challenge you to develop your skills to your fullest.
Receive the Best Return for Your Investment
You are going to spend a decent amount of money AND the next four years of your life at a postsecondary institution—you want to get the most “bang for your buck” literally and figuratively. Ensuring that the campus culture supports your academic interests is key.
This means more than just confirming that the campus has your major. If you are a music prodigy for instance, seeing students not care about the music program on campus should be seen as a warning sign. Is the music community strong, do they have quality resources, does the faculty celebrate its program, is there a powerful alumni network? Most significantly, will you as a student be meaningfully engaged such that you can achieve your educational goals?
In addition to making the most of your major, be sure to take the same deliberation when evaluating the best programs for your potential minor and extracurricular activities.
Engage in Some Serious Soul-Searching
At the beginning of your college search process, you broke it down by some of the more obvious criteria—type of school, number of students, location, and diversity, to name just a few. From there you whittled your choices even further from the 3800-plus to an exclusive number.
You know what you expect from the college, but what do you expect from yourself? Understanding who you are—what you like and what you don’t like—is just as integral a piece of the puzzle as any. At the end of the day, the learning environment that brings out the best in you and enables you to “do your thing” most comfortably is more important than either the name or the price tag of a school.
Go with your Gut
Everyone, from your mailman to your grandma, inevitably will offer their opinion and insight as to what your decision should be. And more often than not, the prestigious school will hold more sway than the less-known option. But ultimately the choice is yours and yours alone.
After fully considering your options, only you can realize which of your two choices—be it the brand-name college with no offer for aid or the less prestigious university with an attractive financial package—will truly bring you happiness and fulfillment.
As Dr. Seuss once stated, “You have brains in your head, and feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know, and you are the one who’ll decide where you go.”
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by Sue Kawecki, first and foremost, is a mother of three children—with one in college, one soon-to-be in college, and the last in high school. A jack of all trades, she is a twenty-year coach for a state-winning high school dance team, a tutor, proofreader, and a social media guru. Over the years, Sue has contributed to a number of publications geared towards teenagers, dancers, cheerleaders, and college students.