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The Five Real Questions to Ponder When Deciding on a College

By Shawna Newman, November 12, 2018

Five Questions

Choosing the right college is a big deal, and it may be your first exercise in value, cost and quality reasoning. You have a lot of variables to look at. Be sure to dig deeper to find the right college to meet your needs. #Adulting

Consider these REAL questions when you’re shopping for the right college:

1) How much is tuition, really?

Don’t fall for the first cost you see. The cost advertised for College A may be for 12-credit hours, while College B sells its typical semester at 15-credit hours. College A’s typical semester may include fees, while College B may not.

If you want to put your college degree to work sooner, you may want to check out College B. Odds are you’ll graduate within four years if you take 15-credit hours per semester. At College A you could add on another year, at least, which will cost you more in the long run.

If a college promotes something as “free,” such as computers or books, that’s a huge red flag; take a deeper look into student fees or tuition costs breakdowns. You may find the “free” items are actually hidden costs in student fees or through tuition inflation. If a college doesn’t have a fee breakdown, ask for one.

The moral: Do your homework. When evaluating tuition and fees, be sure you’re comparing apples to apples, not apples to oranges.

2) What can my scholarship do for me?

Congratulations, you have a scholarship! How much is it really worth? Ask questions such as:

  • Is this scholarship renewable for additional semesters?
  • If so, how many semesters?
  • Is it guaranteed? For example, if this is a large scholarship pool, how many students can actually be awarded if eligible?
  • What’s the maximum payout? Some colleges will reduce their internal scholarship payout if an external scholarship is awarded.
  • Can you combine this scholarship with other scholarships?
  • What will your final cost be for college after your scholarships are applied? A $20,000 scholarship sounds great, but if your annual tuition is $50,000 it would be more affordable to go a school that gives you $5,000 towards a $15,000 annual tuition.

The moral: Unfortunately some colleges use scholarships as a motivator; it’s the low-hanging fruit. Don’t get caught up in the dollar signs of one short-term scholarship and ignore your diamond-in-the-rough scholarship with the strongest payout. You can’t ask enough questions. It’s your money and your investment – be sure to get scholarship details. #DiamondInTheRough

3) You get what you put in...So what do I get?

Life lesson: you get what you pay for. Considering saving money by enrolling in a less expensive college your first two years?  Great, but be sure to investigate what your college can do for you. You may pay less, but also receive less. Don’t discount the value of student support services; these services serve as the light to your college success.

Ask these questions when considering a college with an extremely low tuition rate:

  • What are this college’s accreditations?
  • How reputable is this college within your major?
  • Will you be taught by industry leaders, or are classes taught by graduate assistants?
  • What types of student support services are offered here?

The moral: Don’t make huge cuts in order to save money. Find a college that offers a good middle-ground cost. Remember, you’ll be paying back any debts you take on in the next four years – don’t opt for more than you can afford, but don’t cut yourself short. You deserve free resources and ample student support to see you through your college years. #Balance

4) Decked-out dorm room, epic food fit for royalty; Is it too good to be true?

The room you viewed on your college’s possible no one actually lives there; It could be staged. In fact, it’s PROBABLY staged. #Truth

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Is this the actual type of room/dorm/hall freshmen stay in? Ask to see rooms in other dorms/halls in which you may qualify to stay as a freshman.

Does the food catered for you and your family on visit day have you feeling like royalty? Reality check...Is the meal you’re eating covered with the meal plan you received a  quote for? Make sure you’re getting the dining experience you’ll actually receive once you’ve enrolled.

The moral: Odds are your dorm room will not look as Instagram worthy as your favorite celebrity’s room, and your lunch will not consist of caviar, chocolate fountains or fancy protien shakes. If it appears your life is about to appear this glamorous, it’s time to start asking questions! Have the college model your visit to the TRUE freshmen experience. #IsThisRealLife #RealityCheck

5) How expensive is this college town?

Your dream university MAY be on the coast, smack dab in the middle of a hopping town with so much to do your head is spinning...the only problem is you can’t afford it. When you’re visiting your top college list, be sure to venture into town and check how much simply LIVING will set you back. Pay attention to prices such as:

  • The cost to grab a half-gallon of milk.
  • How much it will cost you to dine at the local restaurants?
  • What your friends/parents may pay for a hotel stay (they like to visit you when they can, but they don’t want to break the bank)?
  • The cost of gas.

The moral: Evaluate the cost of living for each college town you visit. Determine how the price hikes or steals of a college town will impact your ability to adventure and get to other places. College is all about exploring; you need to have the budget to support the area you will call home. #ResearchIt

The moral of morals:

Quality and value are both important considerations when choosing a college; it’s important to find the right choice – the right balance. Make your decision easier by asking questions, reading reviews, and yes…even making a pro/con list to compare your top college choices. From this list, ask yourself “Where does the real value lie?”...after all, not all that glitters is gold. #24karatOrFools


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