An Unconventional Guide to Paying for College

U.S. News & World Report 2012 College Rankings

college rankings

Have you ever thought about what factors go into your decision of which college to attend?

If you have not, you should.

This decision could make the difference in your entire career. If you choose the right school, you might get plugged into the right major, find the right mentor, get the best internship, and have the best job opportunities after graduation.

Pick the wrong school, and you might graduate with a worthless degree, and no job prospects.

The good news is that there are some excellent resources to turn to when ranking the schools you are interested in attending. You should put more thought into the school you choose other than how good their football team is, or which school has the highest female to male ratio…

U.S. News and World Report College Rankings

This annual list is considered by many to be the only list that really matters in college rankings.

If you look at no other source, this should be your one stop.

There are a lot of factors that go into the rankings, and it is important to look at all of the ranking criteria, before making your selection.

Tuition

For many people, this is the single deciding factor. I would caution you however, to look past the sticker price for these top colleges, and look at the average price actually paid by an undergraduate student.

This will require you to look into the financial aid office, and determine exactly how much money for college students receive in scholarships and grants. Many of your top schools will be flush with students whose parents are able to foot their entire college tuition bill, but there are also many students who receive their tuition covered 100% by financial aid.

If the sticker price on your college is $38,500 but the average student receives over $30,000 in grants and scholarships, then your true cost of attendance will be much lower.

Total Enrollment

The amount of students on campus can be a major factor in your decision if you have strong feelings about attending a large or small college. Many people have a pre-determined notion about the type of campus they want to reside in.

I would encourage you to take a multi-day campus visit to the colleges you are deciding between. You might find that you don’t like the small college feel, or you might even decide that a college with a 50,000+ student enrollment, really has a close knit community and small college feel.

Fall 2011 Acceptance Rate

This statistic will tell you how selective the college is. The lower the acceptance rate, the more selective the college is. Often times, this will also let you see how competitive the college is. The lower the acceptance rate, the higher number of people are turned down for admissions.

This also typically correlates to the brand and renown of a college. The top ranked colleges like Harvard and Yale have selection rates in the single digits. You can refer to a

6-Year Graduation Rate

This is a key component of any college decision. Your intention for enrolling is college is to graduate. Right?

College is not an open ended commitment, even though many people like to think so. The graduation rate at your college of choice will say a lot about the determination and quality level of the students, as well as the commitment of the college to help their students succeed.

Many schools are judged off of their graduation rates in financial aid programs, and academic success programs.

Making the final decision

Actually choosing a college can be tough. There are endless criteria to look at, financial aid letters to muddle through, recruiters to speak with, and emotions to balance.

in the end, you need to attend the college that will give you the best chance at success. This might not mean the cheapest, or the largest, or the one with the best graduation rate. You need to attend college where you feel you can excel, and will be given a chance to shine!

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2 Comments

  1. Freshman retention rate is quite important. Many people I knew didn’t make it through the freshman year. It’s a huge change from High school and they needed help with the adjustment.
    6 year graduation rate? What happens to 4 years graduation? I got my BS and MS in 5 years. 😉
    retirebyforty recently posted..Gold As Emergency FundMy Profile

    • @RT40 — You are right on that the transition is tough. Many people underestimate how difficult the actual transition will be. I know that many colleges use the 6 year graduation rate as a measure, but you are right, if you are spending 6 years in undergrad without taking a break, then you just need to hurry up and graduate!
      STRONGside recently posted..U.S. News & World Report 2011 College RankingsMy Profile

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