Sunday, January 18, 2015

Are Universities the Right Choice?

Why would you choose to go to a 4-year university?  Wait.....everyone knows that once you graduate high school you move on to a 4-year school. That's a given. No, actually it's not. I wrote earlier about how going to a community college can be a huge cost savings while you take general education requirements or figure out what you want to do. So it's worth continuing that discussion to see whether there are instances where going to a 4-year school would be advantageous. 

One such scenario would be if you already know what you want to study and there is a clearly defined path of courses you need to start right away. This level of specificity is typical of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs. Courses in these programs tend to have increasing levels of complexity, so if you miss taking Intro to Geology 101 your first year you won't be able to take the Geology 301 class on Volcanoes and Associated Disasters (sexy science!). 

Another less quantifiable reason for going straight to a university is the life experiences you will get. You will likely be on your own for the first time, you will get to determine how you spend your time and you will have opportunities you've never had before.You may meet friends you will have for a lifetime or join a club that allows you to develop socially. It may be as chance as you taking a course outside of your program and being inspired to change everything and pursue that path. The point is that you will have more opportunities and the time to focus on them because campus living will likely be all you do. 

You know what's coming here......the downside of attending a 4-year school right away is the cost. You will likely incur 5-10 times the fees at a 4-year school (yes, that much). Much of that cost will likely be in the form of loans that will stay with you after school (degree or no). Another downside is that students often get lost in the enormity of a university. I personally knew several classmates that "video-gamed" themselves out or became socially isolated. These students simply weren't ready to be on their own and can end up getting themselves in a lot of trouble real quick. 

That sets things up well for our discussion next time, how do students define success?  How do you define success for yourself and measure against others. Success may not be as easy as a letter grade

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