3 things to consider before making your college decision

By Chris Wills

 

May 1 is National College Decision Day, the deadline for students to make deposits to attend the college of their choice. But before you send in that check, here are three important things to consider:

 
1. Affordability is part of fit
 

Many students choose their college based on academic and social fit -- it has a good program in what they want to study and they like the vibe or feel of the campus -- yet completely overlook whether they can realistically afford it. No matter how great a school may seem, it simply is not a fit if you need to take on unmanageable debt to attend (a good rule of thumb is your total debt should not exceed the expected first year starting salary in your field).

 
2. How long will it take you to graduate?
 
Having to stay longer in school costs money, including the lost wages you are missing out on by not being able to join the working world sooner. Ask colleges what the average time to graduate is in your area of study, and if it is more than 4 years, ask for specifics on how the institution facilitates getting it done in less time.
 
3. What high-impact experiences are provided?
 
Consider what the quality of your learning experience will be and how the institution prepares you to succeed. What does the college do to promote active involvement in campus organizations, extracurricular activities and volunteerism? What kind of internships or co-ops are offered where students can directly apply what they are learning in the classroom? Mentorship opportunities? Make sure the school you choose is committed to your success in these ways.
 
Chris Wills is the President of College Inside Track, which helps families navigate the complicated college process and save lots of money

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