An Open Letter to High School Seniors: Choose Your College Wisely

April 8, 2011 | posted by Tia Peterson.


DC university

Will a degree from your dream school guarantee you a job?


Here is the reality: There are very few guarantees in life. While some schools are still considered very prestigious – usually due to the fact that they are difficult to get into – a college degree is most likely not going to guarantee you a job. Instead of thinking about it like that, keep in mind that the college experience isn’t so much about the school as it is about you – it’s about teaching you, shaping you, and helping you become the best you can be so that you can have the career that you want.

Are some schools better than others?

You have to be careful when judging schools against each other. The tendency might be to say to yourself, “If I don’t get into XYZ college, I will never get a job. XYZ is the best possible school to go to.” What you’ll discover after you get into college and start talking with some of your friends who go to other colleges is that much of the general curriculum is very similar. This is such an important concept to grasp.

What happens when your dream school is much more expensive than your other options?

If you’ve been accepted to multiple schools, congratulations! Consider that a job very well done. But now you have the task of choosing the school to go to, right? This isn’t easy, especially if the school you want to go to the most is offering you the least amount of free financial aid.

We can’t make the decision for you, but we can offer some tips on what you might want to consider when choosing colleges:

  • What are the real differences in curriculum between your schools? Most schools offer curriculum online. Check it out – beyond freshmen and sophomore classes. Review junior and senior level courses in your desired major(s). Compare and contrast.
  • What is the net price for each school? This is the remainder of the total cost of attendance, minus any scholarships and grants you receive.
  • Where are the alumni for each college? What are they doing? You can contact each school’s alumni office and have a frank discussion with a representative. Tell them what you think you might like to do when you graduate. They may even be able to put you in touch with an alumni association in your area, so that you can talk to an alumnus who is currently working in your desired field, and ask them about their experience at the school.

One Final Note: Affordability

Again, we’d never want to make the decision for you or try to steer you in a certain direction. Your college choice belongs to you; it’s your future, after all. And this is probably the first major decision you will make for yourself. It’s great practice!

Affordability should never be overlooked. A UCLA Freshman Survey last year indicated that more students than ever before are seriously considering the value – in dollars – of an education. Prestige is still important, but value is becoming more and more important.

We often talk about ways to save money before, during, and after college, on this blog. That’s because money is a limited resource and we want to help you spend yours wisely. Your college investment should be a wise one, so always factor in the affordability of the colleges as you are considering all of the other merits.

As always, let us know if you have any questions!

College students and/or college graduates: What advice would you give high school seniors who are trying to choose between colleges?

Image Credit: NCinDC


  • Felicia Gopaul

    I like to encourage students to pick colleges that are good fits academically and financially. Prestige is important but there are more and more reports of college graduates from prestigious schools struggling like many others to find that first job out of college. Value should be considered – if you not going to get value from the college you are considering, perhaps it’s time to look at one of the other offers you’ve been given.

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