Top Questions to Ask Before You Apply to CollegeBy Patrick Jones, UniversityHerald Reporter
Going to college is one of the biggest decisions that the average high schooler will need to make at that point in their life. It is an exciting and confusing time. While many high schoolers know what they want to do, others don't have a clue. This can leave them feeling lost and overwhelmed. For adults returning to college, they have different challenges. They are often going back to school to finish a degree or pursue a higher degree. The questions you would ask are going to be different because many working adults are already working in a career, while high schoolers are getting ready to step out into the real world. But here are the top questions to ask before you apply for college.
What career do I want to pursue?
It sounds so basic, but before you even pick a college, you should know what kind of career you want. Do you want something in the arts, business, sciences, or education? Answering this question might be easy for a working adult, but for a kid about to graduate high school, it can be a challenge. If a young person is undecided, they might think it will somehow delay their success in life. By not knowing what they want to do, they might feel like they are behind their peers. But not knowing is valid as well. Sometimes it helps to take a few classes at a community college to try out some new things. Or it could help to find some e-courses online just to get a better feel for the career options out there.
Do I need a college degree to pursue that career?
If you want a career in HVAC, you want one in construction, or you want to start a business editing YouTube videos, a university degree may not be the right option to start with. For people who desire a career in one of the trades, they would benefit from an apprenticeship or specialized program through their local trade schools and community colleges. While there are certain career choices like in medicine for instance that absolutely require a degree, there are others where a few college courses and a certification test is all that you need to start a career in a particular field.
Does the college I am applying for have the degree needed to pursue that career?
Once you know if you need the degree or not, you want to ensure the colleges you plan to apply for have the degree program or programs you are interested in. It would be a shame to find out that although you can pursue a Biology degree at a particular college, you can't get a degree in nutrition at that same school. Additionally, if you have multiple interests you plan to pursue like interactive media and art, you want to ensure the university has both options.
Can I afford the tuition out of pocket or will I need financial aid?
This is an important question to ask. Some students have worked throughout high school and saved for their education. Some adult learners have tuition assistance from their employer. And others have funds that their parents saved for them. You'll want to do a full analysis of the tuition and all the fees involved in attending college to see how much it will cost. If you need to pay the full amount, there are scholarships available for people in most situations. Additionally, if you qualify, there are federal grants and loans for students in need.
What's the average amount a year I expect to get in my industry when I am done with school?
Some degrees have a low ROI. Meaning, you will spend a lot of money on your education without getting a very high paying job when you are done. This unfortunate truth is evident in social work. Most social workers have a master's degree in order to do their jobs. However, the pay for the average social worker is around $57,000. But that's average. In some areas, it's as low as $30,000. That might seem like decent money, but in inner cities, that money does not go a long way. If there are student loans to pay off, it makes the salary feel even lower.
Is there a different college that offers the same degree for a lower cost?
If the cost of your #1 college is high, it's important to consider alternatives, especially if the salary expectations coming out of college are low. If you can find the same degree for a lower cost, you'll owe less when you get out of school and be able to enjoy the fruits of all your hard work.