Deciding where you want to receive higher education from is a big decision. Depending on where you go to college and what you study can have a major effect on your life immediately after graduation. Some people land entry-level jobs right after they graduate, while others set themselves up for success in a lucrative and exciting field.

Some students end up marrying their college boyfriend or girlfriend, while others stay focused on schoolwork and don’t meet their spouse until later in life. Of course, cost is also a major deciding factor in where you can afford to go to school. When you’ve narrowed your options down to two choices and still aren’t quite sure where to go, here are a few factors to consider during your college search.

Make a list of pros and cons

With any large decision, it’s a good idea to list out the pros and cons of each option. This can keep you from making a decision solely based on a school’s reputation. While prestige might make you feel good about yourself, if you can’t afford the tuition, it might be a better idea to avoid taking out massive student loan debt just to help your ego. The same can be said for choosing a school only because it’s where you have friends going there or family members once attended. While these are certainly factors to put on your pros and cons list, they shouldn’t be the sole decider in your evaluation. It can be harder to think of the intangibles as you make a list of pros and cons. For example, a school like Excelsior College might offer more flexibility with your schedule because of its online course offerings. This sort of benefit requires careful thought to think about, so it’s a good idea to come back to your list of pros and cons every few days for a week or two to ensure that it’s as broad as possible.

Assign a score to each item on that list

After you’ve made an extensive list of pros and cons, it’s time to start weighing each factor. For each item on your list, assign a point value that corresponds to how important each factor is to you. You can do this on a simple three point scale with one being unimportant, two being somewhat important, and three being important, or even assign point values based on a ten point scale. You need to know actual cost of tuition. Cost may be a very important factor to you, and so a school like Excelsior College with its affordable degree offerings would score higher than a private university in your town. At the same time, going to a school where you already have some friends might be nice, but won’t sway your decision either way when it comes down to it. Once you’ve given each component of your list a point value, tally up each column. Then, take a look at the pros side’s score and the cons side’s score. The difference between the two can give you a good numerical score to think of as you evaluate each option. Obviously, a positive score is better than a negative score, and the higher the number is, the more the benefits of attending outweigh the drawbacks.

Whether you’re looking to study at a regionally-accredited school like Excelsior College or are interested in going to a trade school, there are plenty of factors and ideas to weigh as you choose where to pursue your education. While some people will prefer a location that’s close to home, others may want to get as far away from their family as possible, so that they can truly come into their own. By creating a detailed list of the benefits and drawbacks of each option and scoring it, you can begin to whittle down your options and find the fit that best meets your needs.

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