It’s never too early or too late in life to ask “What college is best for me?” Whether you’re still in high school or well into your 40s, today’s colleges, vocational schools and universities have something to offer to everyone. Here are four factors to consider when asking the question, “What college is best for me?”
1. Considering Online Colleges
Remember when the phrase “We met online” used to be creepy? Now, meeting your soulmate via the Internet is a perfectly normal thing to do. From Facebook to Match.com, online dating is becoming a part of our everyday reality.
Although there are still some naysayers when it comes to online colleges, the same thing is happening with online education as has happened with online dating: Online schools are no longer so unusual. Rather, they’re getting increasingly skilled at offering an education that’s as good or better than a traditional college.
When you take an online class, you still interact with other students and the professor; you just do it at your own pace. Online classes are great choices for people who are working full-time and want to go back to school without quitting their jobs. When you’re enrolled at an online college, you can make your own schedule and check in with your classes and professors any time and anywhere that you can find an Internet connection. It’s entirely possible, for example, to check in with your online class from your iPhone while having your lunch break at work.
2. Considering Traditional Colleges
While online colleges are great options for students who need to earn a few extra credits and non-traditional college students, old-fashioned brick-and-mortar colleges are often still the best choice for young people who are still in the process of “finding themselves.” Traditional universities offer more than an education; they offer students a chance to broaden their horizons and experience lifestyles, cultures and ways of thinking that are different from their own.
3. Public Universities Versus Private Universities
Public universities, such as state colleges, tend to be quite large, with as many as 20,000 or 30,000 students in the undergraduate student body. While some students enjoy the stimulation of so many people and so many different options, not everyone feels comfortable on a college campus that is the size of a small city.
Private universities are often much smaller, with undergraduate student bodies of 10,000 students or fewer. For people who value small classes and a less busy environment, or for people who worry that they might become “just another number” at a larger university, a private college or university might be a better learning environment. The downside of a private university is that they are almost always more expensive than a public university.
4. University or College Versus a Vocational or Trade School
Another factor that will influence your choice in colleges is whether you already know you want to enter into a specific field or trade or you are interested in a more well-rounded education. Vocational schools and trade schools teach job-specific skills and little else. A regular university or college, including many online universities, requires that students take a broader range of classes that extend beyond their specific field of interest. For example, a person enrolled at a vocational school to gain an Information Technology degree will only take courses specifically related to those IT skills. Someone getting a degree in Computer Science at a traditional four-year university, on the other hand, might take classes in religion, biology and literature alongside his or her computer science and IT classes.
It’s difficult to say that a university is “better” than a vocational school, or vice versa. In reality, both types of schools have their advantages and disadvantages. A graduate of a traditional four-year university may be more well-rounded and prepared for advanced degree programs, but a graduate of a vocational program may not have to spend as much time and money going to school.
Anywhere you go to college, you will enjoy some perks that you wouldn’t have enjoyed had you chosen a different route. There are some ways in which an online college is better than a traditional school, for example, just as there are some ways in which a traditional, four-year public university is superior to other types of college experiences. Ultimately, deciding which college is right for you depends upon your life’s ambitions and your career goals. Once you clarify these goals, choosing the right college will become a straightforward process.