Going to college is a big decision—and a complicated one. What should you major in, and how will you pay for it? What are the potential returns on your investment? If you're wondering where to start, here are some guiding questions to ask yourself, along with some helpful online resources.
- Is higher education required for my desired job or field?
Thinking about this can be intimidating; it's like asking what you should do with the rest of your life. It doesn't have to be scary, and you can try thinking about it step by step:
- First, ask yourself what you would like to do.
- Not sure? Check out these 10 questions to ask yourself when you’re just starting out in the work world.
- Already asked? If the first choice you made didn't work out the way you thought it would, it is OK to sit back and re-evaluate what you want out of work or your career.
- Once you come up with some choices, look them up on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook and career websites. These resources can give you a picture of the salary, skills, job market projection, and required education for the jobs you're interested in.
If higher education is a must, consider your options:
- What type of school should I go for?
When choosing a program or school, think about your learning style, habits, and financial situation:
- Would you like to attend a school that is closer to home?
- Will you be working while attending school?
- Are online courses or regular classes better for your schedule?
These choices may affect costs.
- How much will my chosen program cost?
Know that there are many factors that can affect the overall expense, for example:
- The length of the program
- Whether the school is private or public
- Whether you are an in-state or out-of-state student
Also, be sure to factor in living expenses such as rent, transportation, health insurance, and food.
- How will I pay for it?
Check out available financial aid and scholarships with an admissions advisor or by visiting the federal student aid website. If you need a student loan, figure out what you would owe after graduation, and how long it will take you to repay it. CashCourse provides tips for understanding the different financial aid and loan repayment options for you.
- Is now the right time?
Involve your loved ones in this decision. Going to college is a big transition, especially if you have to quit a full-time job or have young children in the family. Having a strong support network can help you figure out or solve problems that may arise, such as paying for child care or stretching household finances. It is normal to discuss whether the decision is worth it.
- How do I get started?
Pursuing a degree or certification is a big move, so give yourself time to understand the admissions process. Visit your prospective school's website to get an idea of what is required in the application, as well as financial aid and scholarship applications. These may include items such as transcripts, immunizations, and tax filings. If you need help, call the admissions advisor.
[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process, or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by the National Endowment for Financial Education.]