by Joael Kelly
This is part four of my series about choosing a college, based on what I have learned working with transfer students for the last eighteen years. This week: Value.
The last item to consider is the value of the universities on your list. Did you notice I didn’t write “cost”? The cost of attendance is only one factor in the equation. Of course, the bottom line affordability is important too, but it is also important to consider the value of your investment. Yes, college is an investment in your future, and just like a 401(k), you want a good return.
So, how do you know if college will be a good value for the money? First of all, what DO you need? Will the college prepare you for graduate school or medical school? Will you be prepared for that audition or job interview? Will you have the experience that you need? And by experience I mean, maturity, reasoning skills, leadership and technical training. Colleges do not always teach you job skills—you will learn those during an internship or post-graduation employment. The purpose of college is to teach you to learn, so that no matter what job you have, you will achieve success.
Learning is done with a liberal arts education and with classes in a broad spectrum of disciplines. Learning is achieved outside of the classroom through leading and also following. Leadership is learned by holding positions in organizations, working on group projects and, surprisingly, by following others. Will your colleges offer you these opportunities? Will you be able to study abroad, get a great internship, or earn a leading role in the play? Will the reputation of the college get your foot in the door for your first job interview, your first internship, or graduate school? If not, then you have to think about the value of your investment and whether that college is a good choice, not strictly how much you pay.
Last year, our Career Services department surveyed our graduating seniors before they walked across the stage. They found that 58% of the undergraduates had jobs related to their major and 16% were going to graduate school. This survey was taken in May, before they graduated in a recession. These figures say a lot about the value of TCU. If you can find numbers like this for the colleges on your list, they will help you make a better choice with respect to value. Look at schools’ graduation rates, internship availability, study abroad percentages and jobs in your field.
It is likely that the award you get from TCU will not be the lowest bottom line. We do not give as much money as some colleges because we put quite a lot of money back into our campus by building state-of-the-art residence halls and classrooms, updating older facilities and hiring top-notch faculty and staff. We have a beautiful campus in a terrific city. The opportunities are endless here. TCU has value.
So, think hard about this point. Figure out how much you can afford and the value of the education, and then choose a college that is high in value and within your budget.
If TCU is where you really want to be, but you just can’t swing TCU times four, think about the transfer option and do TCU times three (or even two). We can work with you and help you choose the courses that will count toward your major and our Core Curriculum.
So, this ends my series on how to choose a college that is right for you. I hope you found it helpful. Now that you have this information, you can visit colleges with more critical eyes. Start with your head and think of all the points I have asked you to consider and narrow down your search to about three colleges. Then, go back. Spend the night on campus, sit in on a class, eat at the cafeteria and just be a student for a day. If you start with your head, you can end with your heart and ask yourself “Where do I want to call home for the next four years?” Hopefully, with all of your new knowledge, you will choose the right college for you and you will have a great experience. We hope that choice is TCU, but we know that we are not perfect for everyone. In the long run, your happiness is most important. Good luck and have a great time wherever you choose!