It’s summer, and high school sophomores and juniors all over the country are starting to make college visits. But how do you know which schools to look at? Here’s a brief guide to what you can expect at the different types of institution in the US.
Large Private University. For the best students who want the best education possible. Here you will be attending classes with future senators, CEOs, and Nobel Prize winners. Incidentally, former senators, CEOs, and Nobel Prize winners may also be teaching those classes. These are the places with money to burn, and they spend it all on getting the best at everything. Yes, you probably won’t be taught by an actual professor for a year or two (they are busy with their groundbreaking research), but even the TAs you get will be the best of the best.
Cost: Extremely Expensive. If you’re not a legacy or don’t have a full scholarship, I hope you don’t need both kidneys.
Large Public University. For good to average students who want a good education in a specific area and have a lot of fun while doing so. Quality of large publics can vary, but usually they’re very good in at least one subject. Your first couple years, you will be taught by grad students. After your core courses have been met, expect to focus on your major. Because there are so many people there, this type of education provides ample opportunities to socialize, especially when their Division I sports team is in season.
Cost: Very Expensive. Not a lot of funds to add to your FAFSA packet, so be prepared to borrow.
Small Public University. For average students who just want a degree. Although there are some exceptions, these regional state colleges are pretty much the second tier of higher education. They don’t have the nationally televised football team, and, though they may have some great teachers, their programs aren’t exactly top of the field. But they get the job done. If all you care about is having the college experience and getting the diploma so you can get a decent job and move on with your life, then you’ll be fine.
Cost: Expensive. You get what you pay for.
Liberal Arts College. For good students who want to learn a lot. Since they’re fairly small, most classes are taught by professors, so you’ll benefit by their wisdom. More than that, though, most liberal arts colleges focus on “life education”—making students well informed citizens of the world. You can expect critical thinking and community service to be major emphases, and taking classes outside your major, study abroad, and participation in extracurricular activities are often encouraged. Plus, a small campus means a close-knit campus.
Cost: Very Expensive. They do, however, tend to had out scholarships like candy.
Community College. For those who couldn’t get in four-year college. Granted, many community colleges offer two year degrees or certificates in subjects—like cosmetology or dental hygiene—that a lot of four-year colleges don’t offer. But if one of those fields isn’t something you’re interested in, then community college is basically where you’ll go if you couldn’t pull the grades to get into four-year college. Choose the right one, and they’ll help you transition from high school to college smoothly. Those of you who could get into a four-year college but couldn’t afford it—I’m sorry. Hang in there. Your teachers will love you, though.
Cost: Expensive. Sometimes, however, if you did well in a local high school, they’ll give you a scholarship.
Trade Schools, Conservatories, Art Institutes, Etc. For those who want a thorough education in a very specific subject. So if you just want the training for your career without bothering with those pesky math and English classes (though better arts schools may still make you take them), then this might be the place for you. Of course, be wary. Because it’s so focused, you may have trouble convincing future employers that you are qualified for a job that might not be exactly in your field. Also, some of these are less reputable than others. Aspiring artists, musicians, actors, etc., generally, if they haven’t asked you to audition or submit a portfolio, then I’d stay away.
Cost: Varies. Legit places may offer you financial aid, but fat chance at a for-profit school.