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How to Pick the Right College

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Posted: Sunday, January 12, 2014 10:00 pm | Updated: 1:32 am, Mon Jan 13, 2014.

(Family Features) Selecting the right college means not only choosing where you’ll live for the next four years, but finding the best fit for your personality, interests and your family’s financial situation. It’s often one of the biggest decisions many teens have ever faced.

If you’re considering several colleges, the best way to compare them is to make a list of the things that are most important to you and see how each school stacks up. You might include proximity to home, athletics or arts programs, campus size, etc. When listing pros and cons, consider cost, academics, social life and the impact it will have on your future career.

Consider costs

According to the most recent Annual Survey of Colleges by the College Board, students attending a four-year college in their own state will spend an average of $17,860 on tuition, fees and room and board during the 2012-2013 academic year. The average price tag jumps to $39,518 per year for a private four-year college1.

To cover the costs, parents and students may need to consider student loans, financial aid and scholarships. You can get a list of available scholarships from your high school guidance counselor as well as the colleges and universities you want to attend. It’s important to start your scholarship search early and look at all possible sources.

For example, Foresters™, an international life insurance provider committed to family well-being, offers the Foresters Competitive Scholarship Program2, which awards up to 250 tuition scholarships for higher learning worth up to $8,000 each in the US and Canada for eligible members and their spouses, children and grandchildren.

Rank your priorities

Cost may be one of the biggest factors when choosing the right college, but there are many things to consider while researching each prospective school. Though some people judge a school solely on published college rankings, it may be more important to find the rank of specific departments within those schools. A top medical school or culinary program could be part of a school that doesn’t have a high overall ranking. Assessing what you value most in an educational program will help put you on the path to success.

Narrow down top choices

Plan a few campus visits to get a feel for campus size, dorm life, the school’s resources and how helpful school staff will be. Finally, make sure any scholarship you might be awarded can be used at the schools you have on your short list. For example, Foresters Competitive Scholarship can be used for tuition at any vocational or trade school, college or university offering a full-time academic program of two years or more.

If you find yourself overwhelmed by all of the choices, just make the best decision you can with the information you have. Many students change majors during their college days. What may be the best fit academically now can change as quickly as what you want to be when you graduate.

Foresters™ is the trade name and a trademark of The Independent Order of Foresters, a fraternal benefit society, 789 Don Mills Road, Toronto, Canada M3C 1T9; its subsidiaries are licensed to use this mark.

1College Board Advocacy and Policy Center: Trends in Higher Education, 2012-2013
http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/average-published-undergraduate-charges-sector-2012-13
2This program is administered by International Scholarship and Tuition Services, Inc. Foresters member benefits are non-contractual, subject to eligibility requirements and limitations and may be changed or cancelled without notice. For details, visit foresters.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images

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