College can be intimidating. The idea of leaving high school and possibly living on your own, away from your parents, for the first time, can be scary. This can be complicated by the multiple options, the talk of sky-high student loans, etc.
Choosing the right college for you and figuring out the right next steps can be complicated. It starts with understanding your options.
Traditional Four-Year College
For some students, a traditional four-year college remains the best option. Even this has several paths within it. If you do choose this path, make sure you are aware of the financial implications. In-state tuition tends to be cheaper and if one or both of your parents are alumni of a school, you can sometimes get significant tuition discounts. It is cheaper to live with your parents, but it can also mean you lose out on some of the college experience.
Large public schools offer a great education, but you will be in a university the size of a small town and are less likely to get personalized attention. If that doesn’t appeal, then look at smaller schools. If you know what you want to do, then a specialized college can be a fantastic option. And if you don’t, a larger school may be best.
The Community College Route
It is becoming more and more common and acceptable to do your first two years at a local community college and then transfer to a four-year university. The biggest advantage of this is cost: In 2023, the average cost for two years in public, in-state community college is $33,524. This is less than the typical amount spent in one year by four-year college students.
And there are other advantages, too. An English 101 class at a major public university could have as many as 500 students. The same class at your local community college is more likely to be 20-30. You get a lot more personal attention at community college, and the person teaching the class is not necessarily any less qualified. Your class schedule is also more flexible, allowing you more time for a job and extracurriculars, saving even more money.
The value of your degree is not lowered by starting in community college.
Not everyone needs or wants a traditional academic degree. If you are not inclined towards academia and have a specific profession in mind, you might be better off going to a trade school. A good trade school will help you land a job faster. If you choose a profession such as plumbing, in which there is a shortage, you can be earning good money right out of school. Trade school is also substantially cheaper. Most people graduate from trade school with minimal student debt and a higher salary.
Like college, trade school is also not for everyone, but it is an option worth considering. That is if you enjoy and get satisfaction more from working with your hands than from writing essays.
Make sure to choose the right, accredited trade school, and look for one which offers paid externships or apprenticeships.
A Gap Year
Taking a gap year means taking a year to focus on yourself before going to college. This is often associated with a certain amount of money and privilege in some areas, or with not being committed to college in others, but it does have its advantages. First of all, it gives you an extra year to decide on a major. You are thus more likely to make the right choice. This results in a higher GPA and a reduced risk of ending up in a profession you hate.
This does not mean sitting around for a year. You should travel, volunteer, do international study or try out different professions. Some people might take a gap year and decide their best option is trade school or something other than college. But 90% of gap year students enroll in a four-year institution within a year.
Choosing the right school after high school is challenging, and you may feel that a lot of pressure is being put on you to do it right now. The Tenney School offers students the best preparation with one-on-one instruction and guidance. Contact us to find out how we can help your student prepare for college and life.