Which college is right for me?

Once you’ve made the decision to attend college, choosing the right one is your next step. Public or private? Large or small? Community or vo-tech? It depends on many factors, including  your personality, financial situation, educational skills, and life experiences. Here are some things to consider:

 

PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES

PRIVATE COLLEGES & UNIVERSITIES

COMMUNITY COLLEGES

TECHNICAL & VOCATIONAL SCHOOLS

ONLINE LEARNING

DEGREES

Typically offer a wide range of majors and degree programs leading to the 4-year bachelor’s degree. Most have graduate programs as well, leading to master’s degrees and Ph.Ds.

Smaller private colleges are sometimes classified as “liberal arts” colleges because they focus on a general education in the humanities, math, and social and physical sciences, leading to a 4-year bachelor’s degree.

The best fit for many college-bound high school grads, community colleges offer a 2-year degree called an associate degree, plus a variety of diplomas and certifications. You can get job-ready for many of the most available jobs in Louisiana today—or you can take your associate degree and transfer to a 4-year school.

These smaller schools offer technical degrees, diplomas and certifications for specific jobs, like HVAC technician or medical records. Programs range from a few weeks to one year, or even a full 2-year associate degree.

great option for students who need to attend classes on their own time, want to work full time, or are simply uninterested in traditional campus life.

ACADEMICS

Some public universities have big campuses and large enrollments, and some general classes can be “mega-classes,” with a hundred students or more. Large classes and a feeling of anonymity can be a turn-off for some students, but with them come larger libraries, more class offerings and more arts and cultural activities, too.

Many private schools are smaller than state universities, and that means smaller classes. Most promise more attention from professors and more classes with professors, instead of classes handled by graduate students. 

Offer an assortment of job-specific programs (nursing, computer programming, automotive technology), but also classes in more general disciplines to develop your basic skills (writing, math, biology). 

Concentration is on very specific career skills (welding, process technology, LPN, culinary arts), though with associate degree programs at some schools you will still get a dose of broader classes like physics, math and English.

Louisiana community colleges now offer multiple degree programs with instruction delivered 100% over the internet. Louisiana universities offer dozens of online courses, and there are even national accredited online universities you can attend from Louisiana.

COST

They’re called “state” schools because the state government helps fund them, so tuition and fees are lower than at private schools.

Higher tuition and fees than public schools. But you can still use your TOPS award at most Louisiana private schools, and most have superb scholarship and aid programs based on both merit and need.

Qualifying students can take advantage of TOPS to pay tuition, which is already a bargain at a community college—in some cases less than half the cost of a state university.

Louisiana’s public technical colleges have the lowest tuitions of any postsecondary option. Financial aid is often available, and the TOPS Tech award can be used at public technical colleges.

The cost of online programs is usually comparable to or less expensive than traditional programs.

CAMPUS LIFE

Larger schools offer plenty of on-campus housing, and dorm life is practically a rite of passage for many young adults. Sports, clubs and extracurricular activities abound, along with social options like student government, fraternities and sororities.

Students looking for a smaller environment or a particular religious affiliation often find it by going private. The number of clubs, sports events and cultural offerings depend on the school’s size, but they are no less enriching.

They enroll lots of nontraditional, commuter and working students, so on-campus housing is limited. Still, most have active clubs and student organizations, and some spice it up with cultural events, such as theater and lectures, and some even have collegiate athletics.

You won’t find a marching band or intramural sports. But there are dozens of these schools located in smaller cities around the state, so convenience is a plus, as are flexible schedules, smaller class sizes and hands-on experience.

None! But with online class discussion boards, you may still have opportunities for meeting other students, sharing ideas and class camaraderie.

Source: Louisiana Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

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