Things to Consider Before Going to College: Making an Informed Choice

Concerned Student

If you are at loss as to whether to go to college, jotting down pros and cons of this life-changing decision can indeed benefit you. There is so much conflicting information available, and nobody can provide you with a definite answer. One can truly feel soaked up by all this mess, no light at the end of the tunnel.

One thing I can affirm for sure – going to college cannot be forced or chosen randomly. If your parents keep rambling about the importance of education, I suggest you buy the ear plugs, unless they are willing to pay for it, of course. Pursuing a secondary education is a high-risk decision that can either pay off really well or leave you in a crippling debt pit.

Whatever you choose, you need to carefully research your options to make a truly informed commitment. If you study in Europe, it is easier because there you either have no tuition at all or a very small fraction of what Americans pay. However, if you happen to be an American prospective student, you better grow up like yesterday. The adult life has already started for you.

Think of the Shackles

By shackles I mean, of course, the student debt bubble. It is patently obvious that this bubble is going to burst and lead to a kind of 2008 housing crisis. Bubbles are an illusion you blow to create a kind of non-existent, although much coveted reality. Try to dodge the bubble; do not let it trap you.

More and more students are becoming indebted, often unable to pay back for decades. Just imagine – clanking your shackles everywhere you go. When you get in debt, you lose part of your freedom, as now you have an additional obligation to fulfill. You might have to postpone your dreams of travelling or building a white picket fence for quite a long time to rid yourself of those fetters.

You need to weigh all pros and cons of taking out a loan. Try googling statistics about the career you have chosen, how profitable and marketable it is. For example, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics is a great source to start your research. Try estimating approximately how much money you are going to make after graduating and how long it will take you to buy your freedom.

Think about alternative options. If you want to work towards a degree in art or philosophy, maybe, it would make sense to just watch some free online courses or go to the local library. Do not just follow your passion mindlessly. See if that hobby of yours is worth getting into a debilitating debt.

Consider the Community College First

There is no denying that university costs a ton. However, you do not have to go there straight away. Moreover, I believe, it is better to avoid university for some time after getting out of high school. The reason being is that unless you are a young genius, you probably have no idea what you want to do with your life.

Many kids go to the university to follow their passion or, worse, find it. They do not realize what they are getting themselves into, as very often they have little to no job experience and, as a result, do not see the value of money. Those kids take hundreds of thousands dollars in debt hoping for some hypothetical job in the future that would outweigh their current expenses. Do not be one of them. Join the club of reason.

Of course, it is totally fine not to be sure about your career choice. The truth is that most people can succeed at almost everything where they decide to apply their efforts. It is also accurate that humans have versatile talents that could all be exploited for success. It is, therefore, hard to choose just one path, when there are so many marvelous opportunities enticing you.

If you belong to this category, consider community college. It is not going to ruin your credit, and it will allot you some valuable time to filter out your passions. Maybe, you have only taken Calc 1 in high school and felt like you could become a mathematician. However, after Calc 2 in community college, you changed your mind and, guess what? This change of plans cost you almost nothing.

Moreover, you can later transfer your CC credits to a real big university. This is a great way to save money and give yourself time to explore, don’t you think?

Disregard the Rankings

No kidding here. It has long been proven that ranking system is corrupt and dysfunctional. What is more, it is absolutely random each year and has no scientific underpinning. You are probably better off just picking the college down the road than trusting the rankings to do your job of choosing a college.

Again, if it sounds implausible to you, consider the funny analogy. Every time the US government tries to base the educational system of rankings, it fails miserably. Remember No Child Left Behind? I know you wish to forget. Just like No Child Left Behind, the introduction of rankings has inspired cheating and loophole probing to defraud the system.

Things that have put a certain college on a pedestal may not be of relevance for you. For instance, a large football stadium or a luxurious campus is not going to make your engineering education more fruitful. So, how do I choose college? – you would ask.

I would recommend you first and foremost conversing with the current students and the alumni. Do not talk to just one or two. Try to get as many perspectives as possible. Moreover, going to college campus can give you a better idea of what you select. You may try finding some independent rankings that offer information about the program strength of a given college. One university may have a quality literature program, but may not be as good at psychology.

Look for a Match

This is a continuation of the previous topic on rankings. There are many colleges in the US, many of them equally good, but just different. Just like people have unique talents, universities have their special quirks as well. It is your job as a responsible adult to find your half.

If you are going for a degree in engineering, you might want to consider the facilities the university provides. If you are an introvert, you would be better off in a smaller school. If you are competitive, you would thrive in a big, prestigious school. If you love nature, you might not want to select a university located in the city.

These factors may seem minor, but this is a long term commitment. If you want to unveil your best qualities and talents, choosing the right environment is crucial. Even if your principal goal is to get a degree, the more accommodating surroundings are, the more you are going to flourish academically and personally.

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