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Which Type of College is Right for You? Things to Consider

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Whether you’re a teenager who is still in high school or a working parent in your forties, if you want to go to college you need to decide which school you want to attend. One of the important things you should take into consideration is the size of the school.

Community colleges are often praised because of their sense of “community” and their small class sizes, but large universities are usually considered exciting because they are so big it’s easy to make tons of friends or simply blend into the crowd. It depends on your needs and wants as well as how much money you want to spend on your education.

Small Schools: Private Universities and Community Colleges

I earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Tampa, a relatively small private university in (you guessed it!) Tampa, Florida. Private schools are fairly expensive, but I was able to attend such a pricy university thanks to the extensive scholarships that I had earned in addition to the fact that I was able to live at home with my parents and commute to school, saving myself the cost of room and board. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t even work in the academic field that I chose to study, but I have to admit that I loved my experiences at the school and I feel that I made the right choice for myself at that point in my life.

The University of Tampa touts their extremely small class sizes as one of the many factors which justify their high tuition rates. (I thought it was outrageously expensive when I was a student, and tuition has gone up steadily each year since my graduation.) Some people see no benefit in going into debt with student loans to attend a school just because it’s small and personable and I can see why, but I have to admit that the “largest” general education classes I had were comprised of about twenty or thirty students. I even took classes within my major that had as few as eight or ten students.

I realize that it’s not for everybody, but I enjoyed those tiny classes because if it was needed, there was the ability to have one-on-one interaction with the professors during class time. If one person had a question, the instructor was able to sit down with that student in the classroom while the others continued to work on the current project.

Community colleges are also much smaller than traditional public four-year universities and they are also comprised of small classes, but they have other differences from private universities.

Community colleges have significantly lower tuition rates than traditional four-year universities, and they’re typically in existence to act as a bridge between high school and students wishing to continue on to a four-year university. They also prepare other students to enter the work world by earning a two-year degree, which is called an associate’s degree.

Community colleges are also good for working adults that wish to return to school later in life. Non-traditional students with full-time jobs or families (or both) often need the flexibility in schedule that community colleges can offer with evening or Saturday classes. Traditional four-year universities are generally aimed toward traditional full-time students who take classes during the daytime.

College Choices: What’s in A Name?

Another thing you may want to keep in mind when choosing a school is its name and reputation.

If you’re a mom of three and you work forty hours a week, you’re probably going to have to attend a school that’s close enough to drive to and that’s totally understandable. But if you are a high school senior who can take your pick from schools across the country, would you apply to Princeton over South Carolina State University just because the name might open the right doors for you once you’re trying to enter the work world? Is that even true?

Large universities normally have better name recognition than small colleges for a few reasons. They typically have bigger athletic departments comprised of NCAA Division I teams that are seen on television, and they may appear in the news more often because of research done at the school.

That may all be good and true, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will instantly get a better job upon graduation because you went to school there. You may wind up being interviewed by a Princeton alum, but if you live in South Carolina, then South Carolina State University may be your ticket to success.

Don’t forget that you are what matters when you start going on job interviews. Your achievements and your personality are probably just as – if not more – important than where you went to school. That said; try not to worry too much if you didn’t get into the school of your dreams. You can still go far in life without an Ivy League degree under your belt.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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