When you embark on the journey that is planning for college, everyone is chalk-full of advice for you. They tell you the best school for your particular interests, they tell you which school has the best parties, which school has the hottest girls, and where you can find the least obnoxious fraternities. My problem was always figuring out what advice just conversational, and what was actually practical. We all desire two specific outcomes from our college experience: to have a great time, and leave with a experience that can get us a job. When I began applying to schools, I looked for all the regular things an almost-high school graduate would look for in a school: offered majors, location, size, guy/girl ratio, campus food, etc. The one key piece I did not search for was price. I knew school was expensive regardless of which one you chose, so I figured it didn’t matter. Take out a loan, get a few grants, pay it back after you graduate. So simple. So wrong.
One night when I had pretty much made up my mind about attending a $40,000/year school, my father sat me down and wrote out exactly how much debt I would be in after just 4 years at this particular college. He included the tuition, the housing, and the estimated spending money even if I was employed while at school. The number was staggering, even with the estimated amount of financial aid I was to receive. Not to mention, in today’s growing population of college graduates, if one wishes to stand out among other applicants for well-paying jobs, further schooling beyond your typical 4 years is almost required in a vast number of job fields. Why spend your life in debt for a degree that will ultimately be overshadowed by your graduate school degree?
Now that I knew exactly what I would be facing after my 4 years of undergraduate studies, it was a clear and simple choice; follow the money. The school that gave you the most money and would leave you with the least amount of money stress after you graduate should be at least in your top 3 final choices. I chose to attend Bridgewater State University because of the financial aid packages they granted me, and attend for 1/4 of the price I would pay at my original school choice. The two schools have the same majors, and student body size. To get accepted to a state school like BSU, you must be in the B-range GPA and have a few credible extracurricular activities on your application. With a 60% acceptance rate, as long as you have a healthy application, your chances for attending a great school like this one, (for a fraction of a private college with the same education) is very high. When I return home for breaks, stories I hear from my friends about their private schools are very similar to mine. There are still parties, funny and/or horrifying roommate sagas, awkward run-ins with last weekend’s hookup, and the unavoidable sleeping through an exam on accident. College is college, you’ll get the experience wherever you attend. The only advice I can give is to get that experience at a place you love, and place your bank account won’t hate you for attending later in life.