*edited to fix the post title from “later” to “latter”-reasons I shouldn’t write posts in the middle of the night 😉 thanks for catching that Harry
Recently I’ve received a few e-mails from readers telling me that they’re choosing between public and private universities and aren’t sure which one makes the most sense for them. I’m certainly not an expert in this area (aside from my own person experience), but there are a few factors I took into consideration when I chose my own private universities:
1. Tuition Cost
Actually, I’m lying. When I sent out my college applications, I didn’t consider tuition cost at all. I applied to the schools I wanted to go to regardless of how big the “bill” would be. I mean, if I got into Harvard, I’d go regardless of the cost, right? I didn’t actually apply to Harvard, but I did apply to some very expensive private universities. Curious why a frugal gal like me didn’t care about tuition cost? Well…because of #2.
Applying for scholarships was practically my full-time job when I was a senior in college. Most schools I applied to had one standard scholarship application which made things a little easier (I started college in 2001, I’m not sure if that’s still the case today?). Once had my list of acceptances, I figured out how much it would cost me to attend each university.
Tuition costs, room & board and fees – scholarships and grants = total cost of attendance
Some people think that private universities are more expensive than public universities, and they are right most of the time! BUT when you take into account the scholarships that are offered by many private universities, the cost of attendance might surprise you (in a good way!). Friends are usually shocked when I tell them that I was able to attend my private undergraduate university for cheaper than I would have been able to attend my in-state university (the University of Maine). Don’t automatically assume that you can’t afford to attend a school based on the tuition cost listed in the view book!
3. School Size
I grew up in a very small town and attended a very small high school (350 students in the whole school, grades 9-12). If I had gone to the University of Maine, or another huge university, I would have been completely lost. I didn’t want to be a “number” in a huge lecture hall and I didn’t want to have to take shuttles around my university. Being at a smaller school made it easier for me to make friends, get to know my professors and transition into living away from home for the first time.
4.Location, Location, Location
Location was important for me for several reasons. First, there aren’t a lot of jobs available in my hometown or any of the surrounding areas. For that reason, (and many others) I chose not to apply to the University of Maine. Second, I knew I didn’t want to stay in Maine after graduation, so it didn’t make sense to make professional connections with people in an area that I planned to leave. Third, I wanted to be closer to a major city. Growing up in a very secluded fishing village, I felt I was missing out on a lot of the cultural activities that people in and around the city were experiencing.
Bottom-line: Do your own due diligence!
The things that were important to me might not be important to you. Get out a notebook and make a “needs and wants” list. Your local in-state university might be a steal of a deal with an adorable campus that suits you perfectly. Or you maybe you grew up in the heart of the city and can’t imagine going to a small private school in the country.
Either way, the school with the best price tag might not be the best choice (yes I’m really writing that!). Carefully weigh the pros and cons of choosing a university based solely on price. I’m not saying that you should choose an uber expensive university just because you “like it” and want to go there. But if a slightly more expensive university provides an atmosphere that you’ll thrive in, it might be worth considering.
I received a full-scholarship to a private university and when I visited the campus I knew I wouldn’t be comfortable there. Instead I chose another private university that offered me a smaller scholarship, but had everything I wanted in terms of location, size, majors offered etc. I might have graduated without debt if I’d chosen the first university, but I also might have dropped out because I wasn’t happy there. Certainly something I’ve thought about over the years.
Did you chose a private or public university? What helped you make the decision?