When it comes to deciding where to attend college, it can be tempting to look to cost as the sole metric of value. However, it is worth noting that deciding on a college should be a combination of factors — cost, location and fit — rather than a decision predicated on just one factor.
The cost of attending a university is much more complicated than just dollars and cents. It’s important to consider who will play a role in covering the cost and whether loans will be taken out by the student. If a student plans to attend graduate school, it may be worth considering a lower cost undergraduate university to prevent the stress of dealing with $300,000 in debt after graduation. Furthermore, the cost of a university is more than just tuition; if a student chooses to attend college abroad or on the West Coast, the cost of traveling home during breaks is an additional expense that can add up quickly.
Not all college campuses and locations are created equal. If a student plans on majoring in a discipline where internships and extensive job opportunities are important, such as Political Science, it may be wise to choose a school in a metropolitan area. However, if a student chooses to major in a subject that focuses on interactions with professors and on-campus seminars, such as Creative Writing, a school in a more secluded area may be appropriate. Whether or not students are able to find opportunities that jive with their major or course of study can play a huge role in their later career success; sometimes, it is worth paying more for location.
Unlike cost and location, fit is intangible. While on paper, a university may appear to be the ideal location for a student, a number of factors, from university values to political affiliation, can define how well a student will mesh with academics and student life.
Although visiting colleges can be pricey, one way to determine whether a student will integrate into the student body is to interact with a current student. Most college freshman remember what it was like to be a senior and are willing to share an objective analysis of what their particular college is truly like.