Choosing the right Type of University for Older Students

College can be one of the most exciting decisions of anyone’s life. High school’s complete, and you’re trying to decide which college is right for you. Where do you start? There’s so many, and too many programs to choose from. Do you go to a large university, or a small one? A public or a private one? Will you be able to apply for grants, scholarships and/or loans? Do you have a car, so if you were to go school far away you could come home? Where will you live-on or off campus? In a dorm, or an apartment? Will you have a job on campus or one off campus? What organizations are you interested in joining? How safe is this campus? This is a lot to think about, but this is a decision that will affect your career. If you have Harvard on your resume, you may be put above people who went to a state school.

First, cost is always going to a concern about a new school. Smaller schools in small towns are normally cheapest, and if you don’t live on campus, you’ve cut your tuition some more. Larger schools in towns and cities are going to be more expensive. They offer better programs, perhaps a bus or train pass, and all these factor into your semester fees. Private schools are a league of their own. They have better security, and only select the students that have the best grades. If you are looking to go here, apply for every financial opportunity that comes your way. These schools will be impressive on a resume, but can run up to $40,000/yr. Most state schools are under $20,000.

What will you study at the school? To answer this question, look at your passions. What are your strengths? Those who have strong strengths in writing become Journalism majors, and go on to pursue such careers as Reporter, Technical Writer, or Copy Editor. If you have a passion for psychology, you could get a career as a clinical psychologist or a school psychologist. I suggest going to your school’s site and looking at their majors & minors page. This is a good place to start if you’re wanting to explore your options.

Where will you live? If you live in the dorms, you can meet people easier. Not only that, but some of them have dining halls. Also, there will be many people on a floor that you can meet to have dinner with on any night. Just make sure you always have your keys. You’re going to need them for elevators, doors, and your mailbox. On the flip side, if you live in an apartment on your own, there aren’t many chances to meet people. Try to get a room mate if this is an option you care to go, and that way you’ll have someone there. The apartment won’t be so quiet, bills will be sliced half/half, and you have just met a new friend. Also, you have a walking partner for if you’re ever walking at night. This will become true for the dorms and apartments.

What class size best fits me? This is connected to your learning style. For many people, a large lecture hall suites them. This may be 300+ students and it’s impossible for the teacher to give one-to-one attention to each student. Furthermore, it’ll be the whole semester and the teacher still won’t know your name. Some individuals can learn at large universities where they may face these classrooms, but others find it distractions and unable to concentrate. At Junior Colleges and smaller universities, class sizes usually maximize out at 20-30 students. There’s more time for in-class activities, individualized attention, and professors memorize your name within a few weeks.

When should I apply? EARLY! Apply in October, no later than January, for the following fall semester. If you’re going in Spring, apply in May. Keep in mind there are thousands of other applicants up against your application. Any of those could be put ahead of yours depending on your gpa (grade point average). It may take 4-6 weeks to hear back, and always apply to more than school. If you get accepted to a few, then you have your decision of where you want to go.

Where’s my school located? This could make a difference in your interests and passions. Big cities, by default, will offer more than small towns. Are there nature activities if you’re interested in such things as hiking, boating, and bike trails? Is there diversity in the school? If you like to shop, are there malls or shopping centers within a reasonable driving distance? Another important factor-how far will you be from home, and are you comfortable with this distance?

Did you ever think there’d be this much to think about concerning college? Many people rush into it unprepared, and find out things as they go. It’s a good idea to have extra money in the bank and you start into these next 4 years of your life. Keep in mind, though, if you stop going to classes for 6 months then you have to pay your money back. This is the rule for financial aid. You only have to pay back loans. Good luck with whatever degree you pursue!