If you wish to pursue a higher education, then congratulations are in order! You are making a very positive step toward becoming an independent, educated, and more financially secure person. It is important to keep in mind, however, that there are a lot of choices in terms of schools, choices that you must consider carefully in order to end up with the right educational fit. Whether you want to go to school online or traditionally, you will most likely be faced with the choice between a community college or a traditional private or public college or university.
Associate’s Vs. Bachelor’s Degree
Associate’s degrees, which will take approximately two years to complete, are typically earned from a community college or from a trade or technical school. These degrees qualify you to start at an entry level position within your chosen field or, in some cases, to provide you with all of the certification and/or training that you need to begin work.
While associate’s degrees are common, they are not as coveted as the bachelor’s degree, which takes the average person around four years to complete or two years if prior associate’s degree training was achieved. With a bachelor’s degree, you are ready to take on the world! In most cases, you can qualify for higher level positions within your field upon graduation, particularly if you have relevant training and/or have completed an internship.
Class and Campus Sizes
How many people you have in your classes and how large or small your campus is will vary greatly from one student to the next. Generally, both community colleges and private colleges, the latter of which can be quite costly, feature smaller, more easily maneuverable campuses and less intimidating class sizes. This can be a major pro for those who feel that they need more individualized attention in order to learn and perform properly.
Public colleges and universities, on the other hand, tend to be very large and spread out. This is good in that they are often more powerful and have access to greater or more resources than their private counterparts, but for some it can prove intimidating. However, since every campus and school is different, it’s always best to do a thorough tour and put in a lot of research before choosing a particular school.
Cost and Living
If you are looking for the educational option that will cost you the least, a community college is certainly the way to go. Barring that, in-state public colleges and universities are also quite affordable. Private schools, however, can be very costly. While you do have to think about your own personal finances, you also have to think about which type of education will benefit you the most both right now and in the long run.
Loans, scholarships, and various other forms of financial aid are available almost anywhere you go, but right now, the most important thing you need to focus on is getting a successful education, not on your finances. If you want a four year bachelor’s degree without all of the associated costs, consider getting an associate’s degree from an accredited community college or trade school and later transferring your credits.
This piece was written by Paul Nickerson, a freelancer based in the city of Baltimore, MD. He writes on politics, culture, education and current events.