Ask All the Right Questions

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Your honest answers to these questions will help you decide what kind of college is the best fit for you, financially, academically and personally.

1. How much can you afford in tuition, fees and room and board? 

Tuition alone can range from an average of $3,000 a year for a community college to $50,000 or more a year for private colleges. If you live on campus, room and board will run around $8,000 on top of that.

Students who decide to live with their parents and attend community college will have the lowest costs. By completing the first two years of required courses at a community college and transferring to a university to complete your bachelor’s degree you can save thousands and avoid crippling student loan debt.

2. Can you meet the entrance requirements? 

Colleges can be very selective, and clearly someone with a low grade-point average will have a hard time getting into Harvard. Colleges do look at grades.

If you don’t get into your dream school on the first try, consider attending community college, raising your GPA and then transferring after you prove you’re a serious student.

3. What kind of living situation is best?

Do you want to live at home, close to home, or far from home? Do you want to live in a dorm or off campus?

While some students can’t wait to live on their own, others prefer easing into adulthood and remaining near family and friends. And if cost is an issue, splurging on dorm life now might not be worth moving back in with your parents after you graduate. Not all community colleges are commuter colleges; some offer dorms or near-by off-campus housing.

4. Do you prefer a small, medium or large school? 

Student populations on U.S. campuses can range somewhere between 200 and 50,000 students. Community colleges too vary in size from small rural campuses to large urban systems.

5. What do you want out of college life?

Do you want a school with a lively social life, big football games, and lots of traditions? Do you want a school that is quiet, serious and intellectual? Are extracurricular activities or sororities and fraternities important?

Remember, these are not completely exclusive. But a large university is more likely to offer up big football games and Greek life than a small liberal arts college.

Community colleges too, have their own identities. Some excel in the arts or specific academics; some have thriving sports teams and campus activities. Some offer extensive transfer credits, others emphasize vocation and technical training. Find out what your community college has to offer.

Kathy Hulik, Laura Lyjak Crawford

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