1. Inquire about your scholarship and financial aid optionsEven dream schools sometimes offer generous financial aid packages. Colleges often award scholarships based on financial need, high school GPA, or intended major, so ask your dream school whether you qualify for assistance. If you are awarded a scholarship, the cost of attendance may ultimately be comparable to your affordable back-up school. Also, don’t forget to file your FAFSA to see if you qualify for any federal or state aid. Every little bit could bring you closer to your dream school – but, if you do not fill out the forms, you’ll never know if you qualify.
2. Examine loan detailsIf you are not awarded a scholarship, you might choose to finance your education through loans. Unlike scholarships, you must repay loans after graduation. You may be anxious to sign a loan agreement if it means that you will be able to attend your dream school, but think twice before doing so. How high is the interest rate, for example? Is your potential loan subsidized or unsubsidized? With subsidized loans, you do not pay the interest that accrues during your college years. With unsubsidized loans, you do. The more money you borrow in loans, the more you will eventually have to repay each month. Before you sign, be sure you are comfortable with this amount.
3. Investigate your employment outlookAs you make this important decision, another factor to take into account is the job outlook for your intended major. To discover what the future looks like for someone in your field, consult the Occupational Outlook Handbook compiled by the United States Department of Labor. This resource can provide you with insight into whether or not your potential occupation has a promising outlook. The grace period for loans runs out quickly. Therefore, it is necessary to consider the practical aspects of your degree before you commit to a costly school.
4. Consider the likelihood of future degreesCertain occupations require a master’s or doctorate degree, while other positions only call for a bachelor’s degree. Research what is typically required in your intended field of study. If you will need to continue your education beyond your bachelor’s degree, realize that you will be spending considerably more money to do so. Then, ask yourself, “How much am I willing to pay for these degrees?” If you go to an affordable school for your bachelor’s, you may be able to attend your dream college for your master’s. For this reason, many individuals opt for an inexpensive bachelor’s degree so that they can invest more in their master’s or doctorate. Although passing on your dream school may feel unimaginable, it could very well benefit you in the future. At a time when emotions run high, try to think practically about your education and your career.
Tiffany Sorensen is a professional tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Spanish Language & Literature from Stony Brook University.