I had a rather odd college experience in that I attended a community college, a private college, and a public university. I loved two of them, hated the third. But what I learned from the experience is that the best way to choose the type of school you attend is not something they tell you at career day.
My high school guidance counselor always told us that when we went to the University, we’d feel like small fish in a big pond. I didn’t believe him because in my heart I was convinced I was a big fish anywhere. Boy, was he right!
I wasted a year at a school whose only ambition for my tuition was to fund their football team. I wish I’d stayed home and just bought the merchandise.
My best friend, though, went to the same college at the same time and loved it. So, once again, it’s all about what you bring into the equation.
Who will love it:
- Kids looking for a social scene. You’ll find something to do every night, if you’re motivated to look for it, from parties to clubs to events, and I’ve never yet seen a university without a nearby bar scene. Heck, there’s even culture – museums, plays, concerts – you name it.
- Anyone with a really uncommon major. Not only is University the best chance of finding the classes you need, but you’ll have enough other people attending that you won’t feel like an oddball for loving, say, Aquaponics Studies.
It’s a toss-up:
- Non-traditional students. When you’re working full-time and possibly raising a family, it’s hard to say whether University will be a good fit. Much of it depends upon the specific school, but other factors include:
- the flexibility of the classes vs. your schedule
- whether you’ll have any time to enjoy the social side of the school
- how much support you are getting at home toward your studies
Who will hate it:
- People living off-campus. I tried this, living only a few miles off, yet far enough that the buses didn’t come near me. Parking was a nightmare, parking passes only applied to areas on the far fringe of campus, and the meter maids got rich off of me.
- Follow-up-question lovers. I had gotten used to being able to ask questions in class and even chatting with the professors afterward. That goes out the window when you are sitting in a lecture hall of 300 people, and don’t expect much more if you’re obligated to a follow-up class lead by a Teaching Assistant (shorthand for: some kid who took this class 2 years ago and is now trying for a Master’s Degree.)
- The kids who aren’t really excited about college but are doing it to appease their parents. If you’d rather take time off, you need to be honest about it. The first thing you’re going to learn at college is that it’s easy to skip classes and nobody’s ever going to call your folks when you do. The second thing you’ll discover is that it’s incredibly hard to stay motivated to go every day after you’ve found out that first thing.
If you love the football team, add five hundred points to your list of reasons to attend the school. For four years, you’ll get into every game for free and in between seasons you’ll automatically have something to talk about with everyone you meet.