Questions Ask Yourself Before Choosing a School
Choosing a school can be as difficult as choosing a major. Once you register for a program, you’ll typically spend two to four years in the university, making it not only an important decision for your career, but also for your life. While you can transfer schools whenever you wish, most universities won’t allow you to move all of your credits, meaning you’ll lose both time and money. In order to ensure you choose the right school and program the first time, we’ve assembled a list of five important questions to consider before deciding on your path.
5 Major Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing a School
Question #1: What am I interested in?
Before you start to think about applying for schools, you should decide what you want to do. No matter where you are in life, whether you’ve just graduated high school or are deciding to go back to school after working for a few years, this is a hard decision to make. Once you’ve weighed the pros and cons of a particular major and career path, finally selecting what you want to do, you can begin to apply for schools that offer that major. Remember to take a look at program rankings to find the schools that offer the best education in your field.
In addition, most schools offer a choice of an emphasis in a particular field under each major. Maybe you’d like to pursue an English degree with an emphasis in Creative Writing, or a Biology degree with an emphasis on the molecular level. Ensure your chosen school offers the path that’s right for you.
Question #2: What does this school specialize in?
Most universities are known for offering particular majors that either ensure a position in the field after graduation, or are renowned through academia as offering the best education under that degree. For example, both John Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania offer the two best Nursing programs in the country, though they stand out for different reasons. The University of Pennsylvania offers a PhD program for training nurses in a research-intensive environment, and John Hopkins was the first nursing program to be accredited by the National Organization of Public Health Nurses.
You can typically find this information on the homepage or degree page on the college’s website. There won’t be much searching required–when a school is listed in the top ten for a specific degree, they’ll advertise it proudly. Once you’ve settled on what you’d like to do, research the schools where that degree is offered and find the best programs to apply for.
Question #3: How will I pay for my education?
One of the biggest barriers stopping potential students from pursuing their degree is the issue of affordability, and education’s notorious climb toward ‘expensive.’ Luckily, most schools offer dozens of programs to ensure a student can pay for their education–but before applying, it’s important to consider whether you’ll be attending school out of state or in your home state. The difference in expense is staggering.
If there’s a program you’ve found that you’d like to attend, perhaps by following the advice in the previous question, and it’s an out-of-state school, be prepared to pay. While you can always take loans out, you need to ensure that the positions you’ll earn post-graduation will enable you to repay them. Typically, out-of-state tuition is $15-25,000 more expensive than in state. Regardless, look up federal and private loans, and apply to every scholarship you can find. Before you decide on your program, you have to decide how you’re going to pay for it.
Question #4: What extracurricular activites does the school offer?
When deciding between two schools that have equal programs and are equally affordable, a tie-breaker can come down to extracurricular activities and sports the schools offer. No matter what you’re interested in, you can find it at a university–swimming, tennis, football, basketball, lacrosse, etc.–and even non-sport extracurriculars like chess, competitive gaming, and social clubs are offered by most schools.
Extracurriculars are a great way to introduce yourself to the school’s social scene, and integrate into like-minded groups where you’ll find life-long friends and have new experiences. Every school offers something different, so keep a careful eye on available extracurriculars when browsing programs.
Question #5: Should I attend college?
Finally, and most importantly, after asking yourself what you’re interested in and what you’d like to do for a career, you need to decide if going to college is worth it. There are many, many jobs that don’t require a four-year degree that are just as fulfilling and can be attained with only a certificate. Whether you’re interested in the medical technology, assisting, or skilled labor, there are good-paying and great jobs available no matter your education.
While college is a great experience where you’ll gain a well-rounded education and set yourself up for a variety of careers, the expense required to attend must be leveled against necessity. Take a step back and ask yourself if the career you want can be attained without a degree. If not, apply. If so, consider other options such as technical school and certificate programs to put you on the road toward the career you deserve.
For more information about careers, including education requirements, salary ranges, and overview of the career, take a look at our Careers Database page.