Here's How to Select the Right College or Grad School

Read this article if you are struggling to decide the right college or Grad school for yourself. Know what criteria to weight in while making the decision of selecting the right college for your future education. Know the institutes which give the maximum exposure and best education.

If you're headed to college or grad school for the first time or are a mid-career adult aiming to earn a degree, how will you choose the institution that will be awarding you that diploma? Some people pick nearby schools so they can attend classes in person. Others shop the entire nation in hopes of finding the ideal online degree. Whatever your situation, it helps to know how to choose a college or university that is the very best match for your needs, your educational aptitude, and your job goals. That's why the process is part art and part science; you're combining several objective criteria with personal feelings. What's the smartest way to find your best institution? Check out the following five-step plan and you'll have a better shot at uncovering good buys in the academic market and hooking up with a graduate or undergraduate program that will help you move your career to the next level.

Talk with a Professional Counselor

Thirty minutes with a certified career or employment counselor can save you a lot of time, money, and heartache. These professionals know how to aim you in the right direction when it comes to the kinds of degrees to pursue, what kinds of institutions to apply to, and other related questions. They can't make all the decisions for you, but can usually streamline your quest and cut your online research time down to a minimum. Fees are quite reasonable and you can find licensed career counselors by doing a simple online search for local practitioners.

Use Objective Criteria to Make a Master List

The Internet is a helpful resource for finding objective information. In less than an hour, you can come up with a list of 20 or so schools based upon location, tuition, reputation, and available courses of study. Try to find a happy mixture of those four parameters when you make your final choices. If being in town is a must, only search locally. Likewise, if you refuse to spend more than a certain amount of money, set a strict cutoff based on tuition and fees. The primary chore at this point is to find a group of candidates for your list., not based on emotions but based on verifiable factors.

Eliminate All but Four Choices

Get to know your list and narrow it down to four worthy candidates. You should have the gut feeling that you could choose any one of them and get what you want from the coursework. Read through all the institutional descriptions again, spend a few minutes at each website, and chop away all but four members from the list.

Arrange Your Financing Package

Unless you are in the tiny minority of folks who plan to pay cash for your education, consider applying for a private student loan. Not only will you have access to competitive interest rates and lenient repayment terms, but you'll have a shot at very reasonable monthly payments. An important caveat is that you don't have to use a cosigner. That way, you'll have the advantage of being able to use the student loan to possibly boost your credit score. Plus, you'll not be tied to a cosigner's credit history, which might not be so favorable. Just because someone cosigns for you doesn't mean they have good credit. So, apply alone and make the best deal you can base on your own employment history, current income, and having a valid need for funds. Education is a much more valid reason to borrow than for a vacation or expensive new car.

Submit Applications

Apply to the four remaining colleges on your list and then wait for their replies. Be sure to get your app in before the deadlines, which will probably be different dates. If you're accepted by all four, congratulate yourself and choose the one that you feel is the best fit for you. If needed, do some additional research, read online reviews from students and teachers, and go over the financial scenarios more closely. You can also hire a grant-hunter to help you apply for financial packages at each of the schools. It's possible you'll win some offers of free grant money at one or more of your preferred colleges. In that case, you'll have additional reasons to choose one over the others.


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