Choosing which colleges and degree programs to apply to is an incredibly exciting experience, but it can also be daunting. Here are some tips to help you consider all the factors you need to in order to choose the college program which works best for you.
Consider the location
When looking around potential colleges, many students focus all their attention on examining the details of the college campus itself and forget to consider whether the wider setting that the college sits in is right for them and for their chosen career field. For instance, you might be in love with the idea of attending a remote, all-inclusive campus college set in a beautiful rural location – but if you dream of working in book publishing you will probably be better off choosing a college in or near New York City, which is the center of US book publishing and will therefore offer you more opportunities for internships and other kinds of work experience. Conversely, if your heart is set on becoming the best agricultural manager there is, maybe studying in Brooklyn or Manhattan might not be the wisest choice!
Consider your schedule
Another very important aspect to consider when looking at potential college courses is what the schedule is like, and how it will interact with the rest of your life. This might be less of an issue for you if you are planning to move away for college and start a whole new life out there, but if you have existing responsibilities – such as caring for children or other relatives, or working in a job which you cannot or do not want to quit – then you need to ask yourself, about every degree program you consider, is it right for your schedule? You may want to consider part-time and/or virtual learning programs, to make sure that you can fit your studies around the rest of your life. Be realistic about the amount of time that each of your commitment commitments will take up, and whether you really will be able to juggle them all, or you will be setting yourself up for burnout.
Consider the cost
Related to both the location of your college and the issue of scheduling is the question of how much it will cost for you to complete your degree. Again, you need to be realistic about the expenses you will face and remember that they go further than just your tuition fees: how will you pay for accommodation, bills, food, health insurance, transportation, hobbies? The 2021 edition of the How America Pays For College report, by Sallie Mae Bank, shows that a quarter of the cost of college was covered in the last year by scholarships and grants. Researching the college and the program you’re interested in to find out whether they could offer you a scholarship is essential, and don’t forget to check whether any external bodies offer educational grants which apply to you. These could be field-specific nonprofits, such as the Foundation of the National Student Nurses Association, or more generic ones such as organizations that help students from a specific religious or cultural background.