Choosing a school is important for your future, but not for the reasons most people think. You see, if you go to the wrong school, get the wrong degree, spend the wrong amount of money or end up with the wrong amount of debt, you’ll waste a good chunk of your working career making up for those mistakes. You may end up earning less money than you could otherwise and paying off a lot more debt than you have to.
There is a great deal of debate over the value of an expensive undergraduate degree. My opinion is, it’s a big waste for most people. In fact, you can get an expensive college education at a fraction of the cost. And even if you get a slight edge by attending a well-respected college, the costs (spelled out above) may more than offset those benefits. So how do you go about choosing a school intelligently?
First, be clear about your objectives. If you don’t know what you want to do after college, don’t spend an arm and a leg trying to figure it out. You may not know which job is right for you and that’s fine. You can be “undecided” and unsure in junior college for a lot less money. Even if you are sure of your objectives, don’t go to an expensive school just because you can get accepted. That is the biggest mistake you can make. Think about what the results of your decision are before you jump at the first prestigious acceptance letter you get.
For example, if you attend an expensive college and rack up some hefty debt, that may impair your ability to go to graduate school. Is it worth it?
Finally, don’t discount the idea of attending private career colleges. You’ll get vocational training that is structured to help you find work. You’ll be working – and piling up experience – years before the college-bound kids. That might lead to you being self-employed at a very young age. Just in time to give your buddies who went to college a job working for you.
Here is my best piece of advice:
1. Do everything you can to get a degree if you need it. If you don’t need a four-year degree, don’t waste your time. You can easily find a good job even if you don’t have a degree from college.
2. If you do need a degree, go to the school that can offer you that degree with the best cost/benefit payoff. What I mean is, if you are going to get the same job, why spend more for a degree from a snooty college? It just doesn’t make sense. The last thing you ever want to do is graduate with debt. It’s tough enough to start life after school and make ends meet. Don’t make it harder on yourself by having debt.
College lasts four years and sometimes five. Those years fly by. What are you going to do after you collect your degree at commencement? Again, if you plan on attending grad school, are you going to have the resources to do so? If you do need to take on debt, you’re better off doing so for grad school (assuming it makes sense) rather than for undergrad.
If your post-game dream is to have your own business, do you really need a degree to do that? If not, why bother?
If your post-game dream is to work for a large software company, call the company now. Preferably you can interview people who work in your dream job. Ask them where they went to school and where their co-workers attended. Don’t be afraid to ask people for help – most love to help others.
Don’t wait to start thinking about your objectives, resources and post-game until you are in college. This is unfair to yourself and to your parents if they are helping you foot the bill.
Take some time now to think this through. Consider your objectives, resources and post-game. Do a little research that counts by talking to the people who do what you want to do and asking where they went to school.
How did you choose your school? In retrospect, was it a good decision?
I was poor, but very intelligent. My SATs could have gotten me into MIT if I wanted. Lucky for me, I was practical and went to the state college that offered me the most scholarship money. I still had money left over after paying tuition and fees, room, and board. My school is sometimes a joke where I work, and I DO work with MIT grads, however, we get paid the same. Once you’re out in the real world for 5 or more years, your alma mater doesn’t really matter much anymore, it’s more about what you’ve done in your career. I also chose Engineering as a major because I knew I could make great money, that it’s a skill few can acheive, and that I didn’t need an advanced degree. Very good choice overall.