Choosing the right college takes thought, determination and time | CraigDailyPress.com

Choosing the right college takes thought, determination and time

Jeff Stoddard/For the Saturday Morning Press

Ten tips for choosing the right college:

  1. Start early. The perfect time to start exploring colleges is your sophomore year in high school. But it's never too late. Start today.

  2. Talk to recent grads and current students. A college representative can give you lots of information and facts, but you need more. Current students can give you a feel for "real" life on campus and an idea of the challenges you might face. A recent grad can also give you an idea of how well the institution prepared them for life after college.

  3. Explore scholarships. Let's face it, college is expensive. There are lots of scholarship opportunities at most schools, but you might have to look for them. For example, at CNCC there is a "LeaderTrek" Scholarship that could pay most of your tuition for two years.

  4. Visit lots of campuses. Pictures and websites are good, but nothing takes the place of meeting people and talking to professors. College faculty and staff love it when you come for a tour. Be sure to be bold and talk to a ton of people. Take a bunch of your own pictures while you're there.

  5. Get rid of your assumptions. Don't assume that just because it's got a name like "Harvard" that it's the place for you. The surprising thing is that most community colleges provide a better education for the first two years of college than most four-year schools, no matter how expensive they are. Small class sizes, more individual attention, and more opportunities to make a difference set community colleges apart.

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  6. Collect loads of literature. Your best friend during your college search is information. Website information is invaluable as well, but it's not always easy to surf the web while you're in the family car.

  7. Inventory your passion. That means take some time to discover what you love doing… What excites you? Is it flying? River rafting? Art? If you know what your passion is, it will be easier to find that perfect school.

  8. Ask questions. The only stupid question is the one that doesn't get asked. Two of the most important places to ask lots of questions: 1. At the financial aid office; and 2. At the residence halls.

  9. Look beyond a degree. The traditional college landscape is changing. A surprising number of college-ready students are moving toward Career/Technical Certification instead of a degree. That way they can enter the work force in a fraction of the time it would have taken for a four-year degree. They not only save time, but they start doing what they love doing without a pile of school debt. And the earning potential of a certificate vs. a degree is surprisingly close.

  10. Check out your local community college. You can save a substantial amount of money on tuition and fees and you'll find smaller classes and more personal attention from instructors. Degree credits will transfer to most four-year schools, where you most-likely will enter as a junior. You'll discover a great selection of career and technical programs that might just pique your interest.

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