Choosing the college that aligns with your wants and needs might rank in the top 5 or 10 for biggest life decisions for a lot of people. But making that choice doesn’t’t have to be intimidating. Vice President for Student Life at Salt Lake Community College (SLCC), Curtis Larsen, joined us to share his suggestions for choosing the right one.
He said the first step is to decide if you need a two or four year college. If you want or need to enter the workforce sooner and with less debt, or no debt, associated with the growing cost of a college education, then a community college might be the path for you. However, if the job you’re targeting requires a bachelor’s degree, then a four year institution might be the right choice. It’s worth noting, some two year institutions (such as SLCC) coordinate with universities to offer four year degree tracks without having to leave a community college campus.
Consider public or private, which with certain financial aid offerings might be more affordable than you thought. Look at in state or out of state institutions, which could be more expensive, especially if you have not established residency or if it takes you a year to do so. Expenses associated with food, laundry, travel, rent and entertainment, and a desire to be near family and friends, could sway you to sticking closer to home.
College is expensive. Some colleges are more expensive than others. Plan ahead, choose wisely and be value oriented. Look into scholarship and financial aid opportunities as well as low-cost student loan offerings. There are government and college resources that can help defray costs. And there are myriad scholarship opportunities for a wide range of interests, backgrounds and achievements.
Choose a direction
Some schools are a better fit than others for certain majors and career paths. Some community colleges might offer excellent shorter, less costly programs in workforce development, while some universities are better adept than others at preparing students for careers in teaching, psychology, medicine, law, politics, engineering, entertainment, media and business, to name a few areas. An institution’s information online and in printed marketing materials will give some insight into their specialties, but advisors at those schools will also have valuable inside information that can help you make the right choice.
While a little on the abstract side, trying to get a feel for the learning environment is also useful. If you value small group discussions and interacting with professors, maybe a smaller school is for you. Then again, if you’re looking to balance academics with an active social life and more extracurricular activities, then maybe a bigger institution is for you. This, again, is where a campus visit might come in handy.
Attend college fairs
In the early going, look for college fairs in your town or city. Meet first with some of the college representatives who attend those and start gathering the marketing materials they hand out. Those first glimpses, those first impressions can be early indicators of what kinds of schools you might start considering.
Visit, visit, visit!!!
The look and feel, or the vibe of a campus might be a factor for you. If so, visit the campuses of colleges you’re considering. Ask if you can see yourself on that campus, whether the school’s sports and extracurricular components are important to you or if you’d be among a student population that fits your expectations. Campus visits can help you make up your mind.
Also, keep an open mind. Perceptions or stereotypes of institutions that have been painted and perpetuated with a broad brush might not match the reality you encounter once you start digging for facts on your own. Be your own best investigator, and don’t only take other people’s word as final.
For more information on Salt Lake Community College, visit www.slcc.edu.
This story includes sponsored content.