I had many considerations on my mind when I first started looking at colleges…
I wanted to know about each school’s program for my intended major, as well as class sizes, school atmosphere and, of course, what the dorms were like.
Cost was a factor, too, but it wasn’t high on my list.
Years later, I’m still paying off my student loans, and wish I had done more of a cost-benefit analysis when deciding what college to attend. You, however, can still capitalize on my hard-learned life lessons…which is exactly why I’m sharing them here today.
A Return on Your Investment
The cost of a college education gets more expensive every year. In fact, the average cost of tuition and fees has increased by 154% in the last 20 years. College is an investment, and to get the most out of this investment, you’ll want to determine if the economic benefits of attending a school outweigh the overall costs.
To do this, you’ll need to estimate the cost of attendance for each school you’re considering. This analysis should include tuition and fees, room and board, as well as the cost of living in the area. Also consider financial aid and student loans when looking at both immediate and long-term costs.
Next, you’ll want to look at graduation and retention rates for the schools you’re considering. These rates can tell you more about the value of the school. For example, if one has a drastically lower graduation or retention rate than another, you might want to take that into consideration.
Finally, consider what your income might look like in the field you’re considering. You’ll need to dig up some data on job placement and starting salaries to get an idea of the economic benefit of a degree. This can help give you an overall picture of economic benefits weighed against the costs of attending different colleges.
Explore All Options
While college is a financial investment, that’s certainly not all it is. College can also be a time of big personal growth, exploration and transformation. But you don’t necessarily need to attend a traditional four-year school. Consider other options if the costs of attending the schools on your list will be outweighing the long-term benefits.
Community colleges are more affordable, and while they may not offer the same appeal as a four-year university, the financial advantage of starting at a community college is hard to overlook. You can save thousands of dollars by attending a community college for a couple years and then transferring to a four-year college. And if you can live at home while also attending a community college, you’ll save even more.
Also, take into consideration the career path you’re after. If your interests are more in line with handiwork, a trade school can be an excellent option for developing skills that can turn into a stable and well-paying career.
Ultimately, what you do after high school is a personal choice and depends on a host of factors. While I’m grateful for my college experience, I wish I had taken costs into consideration more. Starting with a cost-benefit analysis and considering all your options for education and employment can help you make an informed decision.
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