What You Won’t Find On A College Brochure
Junior in high school? I bet you are looking at college websites and if you’ve gone on a college tour, you’ve come away with a college brochure. A college or university will emphasize its most attractive features – not its flaws. Want to look behind the scenes at what they don’t tell you?
1. How bad/good is the weather?
You didn’t expect them to show you piles of snow on the cover did you? What you want to know is how bad is it? Even if you go to a warm climate, you might find it unbearably warm during certain months. You better be prepared for hotter than you expected in August when you move into Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Pack accordingly.
2. How much do you want to party?
What distractions are there on/off campus? Fraternities/sororities or parties – finding a noise- and chaos-free area to study is critical. Be prepared to “turn off” such activities when necessary – like before your grades hit the academic warning level.
3. What is the area/town/city like?
You won’t want to spend all your time on campus. You may need a break every now and then. Cruise community websites, chambers of commerce, and local arts and entertainment newspapers to get a sense of what’s happening near the schools you’re considering. It’s important to also check out – in person – the safety of the surrounding area. Even elite schools can be in poverty areas (Yale).
4. What supports are available at the career center?
Does the career services match the economic climate? This says a lot about its commitment to students. Can it help you with internships (the key to jobs)? What percentage of recent graduates find jobs after college? It might not seem important right now, but you’ll thank yourself for putting in the research when the time comes for making career moves.
Have you heard about gap year? This is a year that high school graduates may take to volunteer, travel, work, or explore interests or passions before starting college. Is gap year a good fit for you?
- Earnings: Positives: During gap year, you can work and save up money – to help with the costs of college. Negatives: jobs are scarce for college graduates – so make sure that you find employment beforehand.
- Experience: Positives: This is an opportunity to learn about a career, get hands-on skills, and explore an interest. In this way, you may be more focused on what to major/take courses in once you start college – saving time and money. Negatives: Usually, jobs right out of high school offer low-level training. In fact, you’ll probably have to do a lot of pouring coffee and running errands for your boss
- Responsibility: Positives: Working teaches important skills – managing money, learning to problem solve, and time management. Negatives: Consider whether you are ready to work long hours versus going to frat parties.
These are the three categories of assistance you can receive for financial aid – grants (need-based) or scholarships (merit-based), work-study at the school, and loans.
- Some schools call grants “scholarships”, so be sure to ask the college to specify which it is, since the money you receive from a grant can vary from year to year.
- Remember that promises of financial aid are only for freshman and may not be continued for the other three years of college. More than likely, this aid will decline. However, schools know that after freshman year, you will probably not transfer out, therefore they aren’t worried about losing you to another school.
- Make sure that scholarships you receive from outside sources are used by schools to reduce your debt, instead of reducing grants.
- Loans increase the cost of college, even though schools may say that they meet 100% of of financial need.
- Dont rule out private colleges. They have huge endowments that may cover your financial need.