A List to Consider When Making Decisions About College Admissions experts from Baruch College, a senior college in the City University of New York, offer some tips to help parents cope with the stress of guiding their child through that all-important question: Where should I go to college?
- reflect on what she truly wants. Compare her preferences and ambitions to the resources that each school offers. Consider each school’s academics, study abroad programs, student life, extracurricular activities, career services, internship programs, etc., and ask how it will further your child’s educational and career goals. Reassure your child that it’s okay to be uncertain about her career ambitions but, if she is, a college with flexible academic programs and multiple options is probably a good bet.
- What happens to people who graduate from this school? Look into what most of the graduates of the schools your child likes wind up doing. If your child is interested in the fine arts, and the majority of students at a particular school end up working in the financial industry, it should give you both pause.
- The downside of high school success. Sometimes, even a top-performing high school student is surprised by the rigorous demands of college courses and professors. Even if your child was accepted at the school of his dreams, he needs to understand that he’s starting all over once he gets to college; his sterling SAT score won’t matter if he skips class or studying. Have an honest conversation with your child about the level of commitment required at the schools he likes and make sure he’s prepared for it. It’s (Almost) All About the Money
- Factor college tuition into family budgeting. Try plugging the estimated cost of attendance (tuition, room and board, books, transportation, student fees) for each school at which your child is accepted into your family’s budget. This will provide you with a better long-term financial plan. And don’t forget about graduate school, if that is in your child’s plans; it’ll be upon you both before you know it.
- Explore all avenues of financing. Don’t count solely on the college’s financial aid award for help. Learn about scholarships being offered by local businesses, community organizations, and employers; your family could qualify for additional aid monies.
- Get to know your school’s financial aid team. Most financial aid departments offer free workshops on how to plan for the cost of attending college. Take advantage of such sessions, and don’t be bashful; ask as many questions as occur to you. Now is the best time to consider all your options.
Campus and Residential Life
- What’s new at school? It’s been several months since you and your child did all that college research. Go back on the colleges’ websites and see what’s up! Schools may be offering new programs, hosting unique events on campus, renovating facilities, or announcing new faculty appointments— any of which could affect your child’s decision.
- Finding the right fit. Every school has a personality; you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on one that clashes with your child’s. Visit the campus again—or for the first time if you haven’t been yet! Encourage your child to attend an accepted student reception; sit in on a class; go to a sporting event; and talk to current students—without you hovering in the background! Students will speak candidly to each other about real-life college issues like the social scene, academic pressures, and drinking on campus— all things your child should be aware of in advance.
- Safety first. Let’s face it: sending your child off to college is scary enough without worrying about crime. Take note of a school’s location and ask college officials about security: Is there a 24-hour security team? What kind of campus alert systems are in place? What are the crime statistics for the area? What security precautions exist in the residence halls? While you’re asking questions, explore the college’s mental health and counseling services—college can be stressful for kids as well as parents.
- Breathe deeply and stay calm. Make clear to your child that you are available to talk things through, weigh the pros and cons, ask questions, and visit campuses with her but that, ultimately, the decision about where to go to college must be her’s. It’s hard to hand over the keys to her future, but when you watch her receive her diploma, you’ll realize it was well worth it.
Types of Higher Education
Community colleges exist for two major purposes. The first is to serve as a bridge from high school to college by providing courses for transfer toward a bachelor’s degree. Four out of 10 college-bound high-school graduates start their college education this way.
The second function of community colleges is to prepare students for the job market by offering entry-level career training as well as courses for adult students who want to upgrade their skills for the workplace. They often offer programs that are not available at four-year schools, like fashion design.
Liberal Arts Colleges
Liberal arts colleges offer a broad base of courses in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. Most are private and focus mainly on undergraduate students. Classes tend to be small and personal attention is available.
Recent years have witnessed the rise of online degree programs, to allow the busy professional a chance to work at their own pace from the comfort of their home on the path to getting a degree. The costs to students are typically the same as for traditional classes—and financial aid is equally available—while the cost to the institution can be much less.
There are online universities ranging from legitimate distance learning systems to fly-by-night degree-mills. It’s important to research a particular institution before deciding to enroll in their system. Generally, brick-and-mortar schools that also offer online classes are the safest, though there are plenty of fully accredited online universities out there.
Nearly 3 million students are believed to be taking online classes at institutions of higher education in the United States this year. That number has been growing about 25% a year recently. Now, virtually all public higher education institutions, as well as a vast majority of private, for-profit institutions, now offer online classes. By contrast, only about half of private, nonprofit schools offer them.
Online schools offer everything from Associate’s degrees to Doctoral programs with available emphases in everything from Business Administration to Criminal Justice to Nursing. Some programs require students to attend some campus classes or orientations, but many are delivered completely online.
Online courses generally require a computer with a broadband connection, but are now a serious option for the busy professional.
Public vs. Private
Public colleges are usually less expensive, particularly for in-state residents. They get most of their money from the state or local government. Private colleges rely on tuition, fees, endowments, and other private sources. Private colleges are usually smaller and can offer more personalized attention and often more prestige.
Generally, a university is bigger than a college and offers more majors and research facilities. Class size often reflects institutional size and some classes may taught by graduate students.
Upper-division schools offer the last two years of undergraduate study, usually in specialized programs leading to a bachelor’s degree. Students then generally transfer to an upper-division college after completing an associate degree or after finishing a second year of study at a four-year college.
Degrees and Certifications
Certificate or Diploma
These non-degree offerings generally lead to employment in an occupational field. For example, to enter fields such as computer science or teaching, you may first have to get a certificate or diploma.
You receive an associate of arts (AA) or associate of science (AS) degree after completing two years of study similar to the first two years of a four-year college. After earning an AA or an AS, you may transfer to a four-year college to complete the requirements for a bachelor’s degree. The associate of applied science (AAS) degree is awarded on completion of technological or vocation programs of study.
Bachelor’s or Baccalaureate Degree
Complete a four- or five-year, full-time program of study (or its part-time equivalent) at a college. The Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) are the most common.
Combined Bachelor’s/Graduate Degree (or Joint Degree)
Complete a bachelor’s degree and a master’s or first-professional degree in less than the usual amount of time. In most programs, students apply to the graduate program during their first three years of undergraduate study, and begin the graduate program in their fourth year of college. Successful completion results in awarding of both bachelor’s and graduate degrees. These are sometimes referred to as “4 +1” programs.
These signify more specialized training in a particular field. They are competed after the bachelor’s degree, usually over the course of 2 years for the full time student.
These generally signify some significant research in the field, and are an upper level degree.
Paying For School
FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a form that must be filled out annually by university to determine their eligibility for federal financial aid (including grants, loans, and work-study programs). In addition, most states and schools use information from the FAFSA to award non-federal aid.
The FAFSA consists of numerous questions regarding the student’s finances, as well as those of his or her family; these are entered into a formula that determines the Expected Family Contribution. The amount of the EFC can vary widely, depending on a number of factors; for example, one such factor is whether a student has siblings in college at the time.
The best place to look for help before you start filling out your FAFSA is at your school’s financial aid office.
FAFSA only scratches the surface of the money available to students for school. There are many state and private scholarships out there. The easiest way to find listings of what scholarships that you may qualify for is by going to a scholarship database online and doing a search. Some handy sites for this are:
It’s not recommended that you participate in any website that asks you to pay a fee to search for a scholarship; there are many wonderful free sites available.
Types of Financial Aid
Financial aid may be classified into two types based on the criteria through which the financial aid is awarded: merit-based or need-based.
Merit-scholarships are typically awarded for outstanding academic achievements, although some merit scholarships can also be awarded for special talents, leadership potential and other personal characteristics. Merit scholarships are sometimes awarded without regard for the financial need of the applicant. Athletic scholarships are a form of merit aid that takes athletic talent into account.
Need-based financial aid is awarded on the basis of the financial need of the student. The amount of need based aid is generally based off the criteria on the FAFSA.
While included in the term “financial aid” Higher Education Loans differ from scholarships and grants in that they must be paid back. They come in several varieties in the United States
- Federal Student Loans made to students directly: No payments until after graduation, but amounts are quite limited
- Federal Student Loans made to parents: Much higher limit, but payments start immediately
- Private Student Loans made to students or parents: Higher limits and no payments until after graduation.
Getting Your MBA Part-time
Getting your MBA may be imperative to you and your career. More than 40% of all graduate students are working adults, so it is possible to balance the rest of your life with your desire to continue your education.
You’ll generally spend three to four hours a week with the instructor in a 3-credit class. It’s generally recommended that you spend about 8 additional hours a week studying and preparing for the next classroom session, so 12-15 hrs a week total.
So where are you going to find an extra 15 hrs a week? It helps to journal how you do spend your time during the week, and then list priorities. Lower priority items, like watching TV, may take up more time than you realize, and can be shelved so you can continue your education.
Re-prioritizing your time is the most crucial step in ensuring you’ll have success on your path to your degree. Make sure you discuss your goals with your boss, friends, and family, so they know what to expect as you add this major commitment to your life.