Quick question: is choosing a college stressing you out past your limit? Do you have anxiety about moving away from home or being able to afford to get a degree?
The average student graduates from college with at least $29,000 in loans and this figure is rising every year. That may not seem like a lot, but once you’re starting your career you could be saddled with payments of close to $400 per month.
The good news is that with some strategizing, you can lower your college costs. If you need to know how to save money and choose the right college, keep reading.
1. What’s the Best Subject to Major In?
If you haven’t picked a major yet, don’t worry: you’ve got time. Most colleges don’t require you to declare a major until your sophomore year.
The problem with not having a major, however, means that it’s harder to narrow down colleges. What if you go to a school and then decide that you want to study a subject they don’t offer?
One way to pick a major is to take free intro courses online. You can take inexpensive classes on everything from computer science to English literature without having to pay college-level fees.
Once you have a better idea of what you’d like to study, you should start requesting brochures and taking college tours. Some colleges offer weekend visits to high school students, giving them a sense of what it’ll be like to be a college student.
2. How Much Will College Cost?
The next item on the list of what to consider when choosing a college is the price. To get a good idea of the price of college, you have to include the cost of:
There are several ways you can lower your college expenses. The first two years of college are usually general education classes, so why not do those at your local community college? You’ll save thousands of dollars on tuition.
Another way to save money is to rent your textbooks instead of buying them. Ask any college student what they spend on books each semester and you may be in for quite a shock.
Textbooks can easily cost you $1,000 or more per school year if you buy them new! Share textbooks, rent them or buy them used to avoid an empty bank account.
3. What are the Housing Options for First-Year Students?
Any list of questions about college has to include housing. You may be more than ready to escape from your parents’ house but do you have the money?
Some colleges require first-year students to live on campus, which is great for making new friends and bonding with your roomies. Just make sure to ask how many people you’ll be living with and how close to campus you’ll be located.
After your first year, you’ll probably have the option to live off-campus in an apartment. The cool thing about off-campus living is that you usually get to pick your roommates.
Keep in mind, though, that you may have to pay for the apartment year-round. If you’re planning to stay on campus during the summer and take classes or intern, getting your own place could be ideal.
If you’re going to intern in another city or study abroad for a semester, talk to your landlord about subleasing your apartment while you’re away.
4. Does the School Offer Career Placement Services?
Although life after college may seem very far away, career placement one of the most important things to consider when choosing a college.
Most colleges have robust alumni networks that help new graduates find jobs, but you may strike out if there’s no demand for your major.
In general, there’s always a demand for:
- Computer scientists
If you have a passion for a less-common subject like Latin or Linguistics, you should pursue it. You may have to develop a backup plan, however, in case you can’t find a job in your field right away.
To get started on building your future, look for opportunities to meet with alumni. Your school may host job fairs, informal parties, or one-on-one meetings that will give you a glimpse of life after college.
The more you can tune in to the alumni scene, the easier it will be to get a job after you finish your degree.
5. Is There a Positive, Friendly Vibe on Campus?
When it comes down to decision time, choosing a college can feel overwhelming. If you’ve narrowed the list down to two or three great schools, how can you be sure you’re making the correct choice?
Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to tour your favorite colleges and talk to a few of the students. Do they seem stressed out or pretty happy?
Do they have the time to pursue extracurricular activities or do they need to hit the books constantly?
As you make your final decision, look for a college that feels right to you. Whether it’s the charming campus, the impressive athletic facilities, or the wide range of activities, you’ll know when you’ve found the right college.
Remember, if you end up changing majors or want to live closer to home, you can always transfer. People change a lot after high school and your goals may change as well.
Pro Tips on Choosing a College
What most students don’t realize is that financial aid paperwork takes a while to process. Aim to start it at least five months before you’re planning to go to school. You don’t want to get stuck waiting for your tuition to clear.
Another pro tip is to avoid living in co-ed dorms. They have a well-deserved reputation for being party dorms and a major distraction.
If you find yourself rooming with students you don’t get along with, don’t hesitate to move to a new dorm. You may have to make some new friends but it’ll be good for your emotional and mental health.
Now that you know about choosing a college, come check out the rest of our blogs. We rent textbooks to college students and also have a convenient buyback program!