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Things to Consider When Picking a College


Choosing the right college is a huge decision to make. It impacts where you’ll spend the next four years, what type of degree you can get, and even the future career you’ll have.

Whether you are a parent of a soon-to-be college student or a high schooler looking at your options, there is a lot to consider when picking a college. As you begin researching what universities or colleges to apply for, keep these factors in mind to make sure your college experience is good!

Total Costs for Attending College

woman walking holding booksThe first conversation about every school should be how much it will cost. Attending a university is expensive and very few families can pay for it on their own. Between tuition, books, housing, food, and other expenses, the price tag of attending college gets high. A year attending an in-state public college costs on average $27,330, a year of out-of-state public college costs on average $44,150, and attending a private college is around $54,800. 

That being said, some colleges are more expensive than others. As you research schools, compare tuition, book costs, and housing as major expenses. Don’t just look at tuition costs, as some colleges might have lower tuition but higher cost of living or other expenses. Look at the average cost as a whole for attending each school.

Financial Aid Options

man in a classroomAfter looking at costs, you need to start figuring out how to pay for college. Before going straight to taking out a student loan, explore any and all financial aid options at each school. After getting accepted to a school, you can meet with financial aid counselors who can fully explain your options, but having a good idea of your options before picking a school is a good idea.

Explore scholarships first. Many colleges hand out full and partial scholarships to students with skills they want at their school. This can include sports, music, theater, art, and more. If you have a skill set you’ve been developing over the years, explore each school’s programs and see if they offer scholarships for those skills. You might also get a scholarship just for having good grades. Other scholarships are given out by individual businesses or organizations and can cover small parts of your expenses.

Another option to consider is government assistance if your family is within a certain income bracket. Depending on the cost of college and how much money the government gives you, this can cover all or at least a good portion of your expenses.

Finally, you can always take out student loans to pay for school, but this should be done as a last resort. Student loans are a heavy burden to take into adulthood and are difficult to pay off. Explore all options within student loans as well, including what repaying the loan looks like.

Will You Need a Car?

young woman in a cityNot all universities are a single campus in a central location. There is this stereotype of a college with all their buildings and classes on a single campus and students can easily walk to each class. Some universities don’t fit this mold, and might own buildings spread out across a town or city too far to easily walk. Other places might require a car to get from affordable housing to the campus, or to pick up groceries and other necessities. 

When researching colleges, you need to determine if having a car is essential. Some colleges might fit the mold and be walkable, while others might require a car to get from one class to the next. That probably means buying a car, paying for insurance and gas, and likely buying some sort of parking pass for the school. All expenses that need to be added into the total cost of attending school.

If you are soon-to-be a college student looking to buy a car, Pioneer can help with our First-Time Auto Buyer loan. It’s designed for those buying their first car and not only helps you get your car, but also to understand and build your credit!

How Close Are You to a Support System?

College can be a very hard time for some and having a support system nearby can be very important. Especially for those going out for their first time away from home, college can be tough. Having someone the student can turn to in a time of need that is nearby is a smart thing to do. 

When looking at schools, see what type of support system they have available nearby. Do you have any family or friends that live near the school in times of need? Does the school have tools and resources for students who are struggling? How much would it cost for parents to come help their child if something goes wrong? These should all be answered in case something horrible happens, such as a bad injury or mental issues. 

What is the School Known For?

man swimming in poolNot all colleges are equal. Some are more prestigious, others are less expensive. Many schools specialize in specific degrees or programs, while others have great athletics or better student life. When looking at schools, you should research what makes that school special. 

Attending a school with a specialty or good program and being a part of that can lead to potential career options in the future. Similarly, if having amazing experiences, like traveling abroad, is important, be sure the colleges you pick offer those. If you want to play sports and get a scholarship, don’t bother with schools that don’t have an athletic program.

What Will an Emergency Cost You?

paramedics and person in stretcherLife happens while at college, and part of life is emergencies. Maybe it’s a car accident on the way to class, or getting hurt while playing a game with friends. You might get sick and need to go to the emergency room. A laptop with all of your homework got stolen. Things will happen while at school.

So, preparing for emergencies is important. Try to predict potential accidents or emergencies and how to respond to them. For example, if the student is going to school out-of-state, what is their health insurance situation going to look like? If they need to go to a doctor or an emergency room, will they have coverage? Most likely, they won’t, unless you have a nationwide health insurance plan. So, to prevent a big health care bill, you’ll want to find a solution for this. Some colleges offer health insurance, or you might need to purchase some supplemental health insurance. 

If a large emergency expense is coming your way, like repairs to a car or replacing all of your stuff after a flood or fire, you might need help paying it off. Pioneer offers Signature Loans that can help cover larger expenses and let you spread out the costs over a period of time rather than paying for it all at once.

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