What To Look For When Choosing A College
Going to college is a big commitment, not to mention a huge expense. It's important to seek the right school for what you want to accomplish in life. The purpose of this site is to help you know what to look for when choosing a college. There are a number of aspects to keep in mind when trying to find the right college. Many of these elements will be covered throughout this article. Others will be covered in more depth on associated pages.
Rising Cost Of College Tuition
When one looks at the rising cost of college tuition, it is easy to wonder if it still makes sense to invest in higher education. According to CNN Money, in an article dated October 29, 2011, the typical family's income is being eroded by the net cost of a college education. According to the article, the average public university raised their in-state tuition by 5.4% in 2011, to an annual cost of $21,447. The highest rise in tuition by a single school was California State University San Marcos, who raised their tuition by 31%. The average cost for one year of education at a typical private college rose 4.3% in 2011 to $42,224. CNN used Collegedata.com for their data source. According to Federal surveys, at least 52% of all students at public four-year universities are receiving either scholarships, grants, or both; bringing the net average cost per year of "on campus" education to $11,400. This includes dorms, books and living expenses.
When running the numbers, it can be quite scary for parents who still have a number of years before their children enter college, to imagine what the cost of their education may end up being. Contributing factors to this rise in cost include inflation, as well as demand. Historically, the price of college has risen by an average of about 4-6% per year. The economic principle of supply and demand drives up the cost as the demand increases. With the economy suffering as it is, this magnifies the other economic woes.
Student Loans And Grants
Although a loan and grant help accomplish the same thing, there is a difference between the two. What is the difference between loans and grants? A loan provides money to pay for your schooling, but must be paid back. Grants, on the other hand, don’t require repayment. There are a number of different kinds of grants, but in general, a grant is like a scholarship. It is money that is awarded to you. To qualify for a grant, you must meet specific qualifications, and in order to receive the grant, you are normally required to do something specific. The grant may be based on your GPA, or on an essay that you write.
There are private grants offered by various companies, institutions, or even individuals. There are also government grants offered by the Federal government. Some grants are based on certain specific criteria such as military background, ethnicity, gender or income. Grant money, however is basically a free gift that is applied to your educational expense, although the grant may not cover your entire financial expense. Most students need to get student loans, in addition to the grants they receive. Often times these loans don't need to be paid back until after completing your education, but will require paying interest on the sum borrowed.
The Pell Grant is awarded by the federal government, to individuals going after an undergraduate degree who have a much lower income. They are also awarded to a select few postgraduate students. There are two different factors that affect how much you receive through a Pell Grant. One factor is your income, and the other is the cost of the tuition the institution you are planning on attending, charges. To apply for a Pell Grant, you will need to fill out the FASFA form, and there are deadlines each semester.
Non Traditional Student Grants
Regardless of your particular situation, there are a lot of opportunities for finding grants that can help meet your needs. This is the case regardless of your age, gender or ethnicity. If you fall in the category of a non-traditional student, don't give up too easily. When the term "non-traditional student" is used, it is typically referring to those who have enrolled in a college or university after the age of 24. Since there are over six million students that fall into that demographic, it is somewhat of a misnomer to call them non-traditional.
Many of these non-traditional students actually have some college under their belt, but took a break from education to pursue a career or family. After realizing they can't get ahead without the degree, some are back to complete the education they need to make that next step. Many of these individuals are still full time employees and are taking on-line college courses.
Others who fall into the non-traditional category went directly from high school into the work force or into the military in service to our country.
Federal Student Loans Website
If you are considering going after a federal loan, you can go to the Federal Student Loan Website. This site offers students and parents alike, the opportunity to explore information about their Direct Loan Programs. This includes helpful publications, as well as tools which will help manage a Direct Loan. As to the school that is being attended, the financial aid professionals can apply the related information to their specific program. The site also has a section specifically designed for schools who are interested in joining their program.
Living On Campus VS Living Off Campus
This is a question that must be answered by every college student. Which is better; to live on campus or to live off campus? When you look at both options, each have some advantages as well as disadvantages. It's best to look at both sides before deciding.
There are three basic advantages of living on-campus. First of all, it makes life simpler. Most colleges and universities have a meal plan for those who live in a dorm. That doesn't mean the student can't eat off campus as well. Also, living in a dorm eliminates the utility bills, and for that matter, high rent payments.
Secondly, living on campus gives you better accessibility to classes, labs, libraries, etc. You don't have the hassle of trying to find parking and you don't have to leave early when going to class.
Thirdly, you can enjoy more social life on campus. This allows you to meet more friends than you would if you lived off campus. Being in the dorm always gives you someone to hang around with. Living in a dorm also makes you more aware of activities that may be going on.
As good as it sounds to live on-campus, there are some drawbacks too. If you have ever been in a dorm room, you know they aren't very big. For the ladies, that means you have to limit the number of shoes you bring; as well as outfits. Since social life is a big thing on campus, you won't have near as much privacy as you did at home. You will need to learn to not only share your bedroom with a room-mate, but also share the bathroom with others. It may be hard to find a quiet moment for you to think, which can affect your grades.
At this point, you may be thinking that off-campus sounds a little better. There are clear advantages to not living in a dorm as well. Freedom is one of the greatest benefits of off campus living. You won't be restricted nearly as much in your own apartment. You will also enjoy more privacy. There is a good chance that living off campus will give you your own bedroom, which also equates to more quiet time.
Living off campus may "make" you be more responsible. This could be a pro or a con, depending on how you look at it. In this environment, you have to pay bills, clean, do all the shopping for groceries and even cook your own meals.
Now you may be thinking it isn't so great having your own room. On the other side of the coin, there are some disadvantages of living off-campus. As mentioned before, transportation becomes a much bigger problem. Rather than just walking to classes, you have to make sure you get to school early enough to find a parking spot. The cost of gas isn't getting any cheaper, so your expense could continue to climb, and parking permits may not be cheap.
The overall expense of living in off-campus housing is going be higher. Utilities, including your cable and internet access will now cost you extra. You will also need to bring your own cooking utensils. Your furniture probably won't be included either. On top of that, you will have cleaning supplies, and a dozen other things.
By living away from the dorms, you will be more out of touch with campus activities. You may get a detached feeling as a result. Your social life will definitely suffer. This may help with your grades but may cause some loneliness or even depression.
It's important to remember that many colleges don't let you live off-campus your first year. Some schools require you live in a dorm or with family members.
Things To Bring To College Dorm Room
When planning what to bring with you to college, remember that most dorm rooms are very crowded. And, you will probably have a room-mate. Bummer! Maybe that won't be so bad, but will limit what you bring with you. You will most likely either have single beds in the room or college dorm room loft beds. These smaller beds help conserve on space. You will also probably have your own desk.
One of the first things to do is check your college or university's web site. You will probably want to explore their Office of Residence Life page. They may give you a handy list to work with. You may find a list of items that aren't permitted on campus as well. These items may include pets, toasters, space heaters and air conditioners.
If you can find out who is going to be your roommate prior to leaving for college, you may be able to communicate and decide who is going to bring what, so you don't double up on so many things.
Here is a checklist of essential items for a college dorm room you will probably want to bring; some may however, be provided by the college or university:
- Alarm clock
- Bed linens
- Bean Bag for a chair
- Clothes rack for drying clothes
- Compact refrigerator
- Dish soap
- Laundry bag
- Laundry detergent
- Microwave (small)
- Plants (real or fake)
- Radio or stereo
- Rolls of quarters for washer and dryer
- School supplies
- Sewing kit - basic
- Toiletry items
- TV/DVD player
Cheap Used College Textbo0ks For Sale
If you purchase brand new textbooks, you will spend a small fortune. There are a couple of good options to check out. One is buying used books from a campus bookstore or even on line. Many bookstores also have the option of renting your textbooks. By buying used or by renting you will save up to $500 per year.
Tutoring Services For College Students
One thing to check out, especially if you aren't the best student is tutoring services for college students. Let's face it; college level academics are at a much higher level than high school. Even if you breezed through high school, you may struggle in one area or another in college. You can probably find good tutoring on campus. If not, there are a number of sites you can search for on-line tutoring.
What College Major Should I Choose?
If you already have a clear picture of what you are going to do with your life, it is best to get some of your general education out of the way before declaring a major.
A good place to begin, if you don't know what career path to take, is to go to MyMajors.com. This site allows you to take a quick quiz to see what career path may be best for you. You can also find the best college for that particular career. When choosing a college, it's important to know what to look for.