May   2018



Top 5 Tips From My College Search

CollegeXpress Student Writer
Last Updated: May 29, 2018

Many people will tell you the rights and wrongs of looking for colleges, from your teachers and parents to family members and sometimes your close friends. How do you know who’s correct if they all have differing views? Here are the most important things you should do when deciding which colleges to apply to and which one is the best for you.

1. Make sure you research the price of your dream school

Many high school juniors and seniors decide the college they will go to based on their #1 dream school. But more often than not, they either don’t get in or they don’t research everything they need to know about the school, like the total cost of attendance. A lot of students decide to go to colleges they can’t afford, causing them to finish with a degree as well as a weighing pile of debt on their shoulders. Check out these student loan debt statistics by program:

Direct Loans

$1,003.3 billion

32.1 million borrowers

FFL Loans

$320.5 billion

15.7 million borrowers

Perkins Loans

$7.9 billion

2.6 million borrowers

Total (All Federal)

$1,331.7 billion

42.3 million borrowers

Via Student Loan Hero, updated January 24, 2018

The last thing you want to worry about after college is the amount of money you owe. The school I originally wanted to go to was ruled out due to tuition and cost of living, but I found other schools I was interested in that were more reasonable. Your journey to college is already stressful, but finding a school that’s affordable will help alleviate that stress. Researching all of your options allows you to be more aware and prepared for the cost of tuition, room and board, textbooks, etc.

Related: Tips for Families to Maximize College Affordability 

2. Look for schools in your area or close to home

Many students want to go to out-of-state schools because they think they’re “better.” But that isn’t necessarily true. By deciding to go to an out-of-state school, students usually sign up for bigger price tags and more students loans. Why? Because by choosing a school that’s further away, especially in a different state, you’ll have to pay higher tuition than in-state students and be forced to pay for room and board, travel expenses, etc. The in-state tuition for Western Oregon University is $9,855 compared to $25,638 for out of state. The in-state tuition for Arizona State University is $10,792, while out-of-state tuition is $27,372. Long story short: usually tuition for a student living in a different state is more than double the in-state tuition price.

I am in the same boat as you guys. I’ve looked into a number of out-of-state schools and in the end, I decided it was better for me to transfer to an out-of-state school after I finish community college. When researching out-of-state schools, compare the cost to in-state colleges, and if you’re transferring from a community college, make sure your credits will transfer over. If your heart is set on going to an out-of-state school but the cost isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, research the school’s financial aid programs, reciprocity agreements, and other scholarships that you can apply for to help you attend your dream school.

Related: Search for scholarships on CollegeXpress

3. Research the majors and academic programs offered at your schools of interest

This tip is more than likely the most important. There is no reason to plan on going to a college and then finding out they don’t have your major. For students who are undecided, you won’t be checking to make sure the college offers the major you want; instead, you should focus on the majors they have to choose from, so you know what your options are when you have to declare one at the end of your sophomore year. If your in-state schools don’t have your preferred major, then look at your out-of-state choices. I want to become an American Sign Language interpreter and teacher. I could only find associate degree programs for my major in California, so I will be transferring to an out-of-state four-year university after finishing my associate at Palomar College.

4. Research what classes you need to take for your major

While researching what majors each school offers, you should also look up what classes you would be taking while there. Some classes are only available during certain times of the year. If the school is on a semester system, maybe one of the prerequisites for your major is only offered in the spring and the upper-level classes you can start taking after are only offered in the fall. You’ll have to take some other courses your first semester until those classes are available. Many students expect to finish school fast but don’t do their research. Be sure to look up your major’s requirements and what classes fill your gen eds so you don’t end up taking classes you don’t necessarily need for your degree.

5. Combine your research and decide which school is the best option for you

After you finish your research, you should combine all of it. A good way to do this is to write it down on a chart. The chart will help you visualize which school fits most with what you want in a college, including tuition, major, location, and duration. Whichever one meets the majority or all of those aspects is the school for you.

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About Renee Serna

Renee Serna

Renee graduated high school early and will be enrolling at Palomar College in the fall. She plans to compete on both the track and cross-country team at Palomar. She has always loved English and science but started to love American Sign Language (ASL) as she progressed through high school. She plans to become an ASL interpreter one day and thanks all of her family and friends who have supported her over the years.


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