Choose the right school for the right reasons

When choosing post-secondary education, gathering useful information can pay off by saving on costs.

College students across the country are settling into their dorm rooms.  Back home, parents who just paid the tuition, room and board invoice may wonder if college is really worth the money.  Considering that 65 percent of college students graduate with debt, the question is valid.

There has been much debate in the media on this topic recently.  Regardless which side of the issue you accept as true, Michigan State University Extension has several suggestions that can help you make a wise decision regarding post-secondary education and the costs involved.

First, carefully consider the job or career you want – does it actually require a four-year degree?  Perhaps a two-year, skill-oriented degree may be more suitable.  Be sure to investigate technical schools and certificate programs.

Second, research the schools you are considering.  What is their track record for graduating students in four years?  What percent of students secure employment in their field of study?  Are there opportunities outside the classroom to gain experience in your area of interest?  Does the school offer internships, on-the-job opportunities or international study experiences?  These unique experiences may be just the edge you need when in the job market after graduation.

If you determine that a bachelor’s degree is required for the position that you aspire to, research colleges to determine which have a solid reputation for the degree you want to pursue.  Check the online rankings from U.S. News and World Reports and the Princeton Review.

A prudent financial tip is to realize that you do not have to start out at your chosen school as a freshman.  Consider attending a community college, at significantly reduced cost, for the first two years to get the basic required classes.  Transfer to the university of your choice for the required degree-specific coursework the final two years.  If your desired career requires an advanced degree, consider attending your first-choice college for graduate school instead of for your bachelor’s degree.

Regardless of the school you choose and the degree you pursue, capitalize on your post-secondary education by making a concerted effort to network with others in your field of interest including instructors, professors and researchers.  Get actively involved in pertinent clubs and organizations so that you have connections and experience related to your field of study.  Those relationships may be advantageous when you are job hunting or need a reference.

Choosing where to go to pursue post-secondary school is an important financial decision.  With some research you can maximize your options and choose wisely for the career you desire.

For more information about career awareness and workforce preparation, check out Build Your Future: Choices… Connections… Careers, a new curriculum designed by 4-H educators with MSU Extension; it is available at the National 4-H website as well.

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