Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Preparing For College: Choosing a School

Cambridge - Harvard Square: Harvard University...
Cambridge - Harvard Square: Harvard University - Memorial Hall (Photo credit: wallyg)
by Wendy L Nelson

Question 1 - What am I good at?

There are many different types of schools that specialize in different things. Understanding what you are good at may help to narrow down the school type.

Are you a great writer or are you really into history? A liberal arts college may be your best bet because you will spend a lot of time in these areas.

Are you interested in cooking, photography or digital media? A trade school or 2-year community college will give you a chance to take classes in these areas and bring your skills up to a level where you could make this a career.

Are computers your greatest love? Maybe you should go to a technical school where you can focus on computer technology and not so much on history, English and other traditional subject areas.
Are you certain what you want to major in? Many 4-year universities will allow you to go right into your content area without needing a well-rounded liberal arts base.

Question 2 - How much can I afford?

This will be critical for narrowing down different types of schools and finding schools where you have the best chance of financial aid. You need to look at three things to answer this:

1) What do you (or your parents) already have saved for college?
2) What can you (or your parents) afford to pay while you are in school?
3) How much financial aid can you qualify for?

The best ways to find out how much financial aid you can qualify for are by using the FAFSA Forecaster and going to college's Net Price Calculators. You can Google "FAFSA forecaster" to get some sites that provide this tool and tell you what it means.

Almost all college websites will have a link to a Net Price Calculator within their Admissions information. This is a great way to see what it may actually cost you to go to the college.

Question 3 - What are my goals?

Are you intent on getting both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree? If so, you may want to consider a lower cost 4-year college to start with. A state school in your home state could be your most affordable option.

Are you anxious to get into the workforce as soon as possible? In that case, it may make sense to start with a 2-year degree and then decide if you want to transfer right to a 4-year school or go out and work for a while.

Question 4 - Where do my grades and test scores best fit?

Look at the range of high school GPA and ACT/SAT test scores that a school says they admit. This will tell you how selective the school is. If you have great grades and test scores, you may be able to find a private college that will give you enough of a merit scholarship to make it the lowest cost option.

Question 5 - What school characteristics do I prefer?

Narrow down the type of campuses you want to look at.

- Small, medium or large?
- Close to home or far away?
- Very selective in who is admitted or not so selective?
- Rural, suburban or urban?

Once you can answer these questions, find a website that has a good college search tool and plug in your desired characteristics. This will give you a good list of colleges to explore further. Then start visiting schools and narrowing down your choices. Try to end up with a list of 3 - 8 schools you will apply to.

When you come down to making the final decision on a school, you need to look at where you were accepted, how much each school costs and how much you like each one. Determine what the deciding factor will be and go with the one that meets it best.

Wendy Nelson is a first-time college mom who has approached her daughter's college search process using her professional background in Project Management. She hopes to help others through the college choice process by sharing what she has learned.

For more helpful information to guide you in your college choice process visit http://www.mykidscollegechoice.com. You will find a great spreadsheet template to help you keep track of your college search on my Resources tab.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Wendy_L_Nelson

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