As college acceptance letters begin rolling in, you might be faced with one of the toughest decisions of your life—which university you will attend. Just as admissions officers evaluate you on a multitude of characteristics, so too must you evaluate your schools based on their characteristics. You should consider location, degree plans, school size, and social life, but the one factor that might weigh on you more than anything else is the cost of attendance.
In a perfect world, finances would never affect someone’s decision on the college they will attend, and in fact, many schools make honest efforts to lower the financial burden of attending their institution. Unfortunately, however, even with generous grants and scholarships, some schools, especially private ones, may still have a price tag that’s intimidating when compared to those of public schools. Whereas public institutions are subsidized by their state’s taxpayers, private institutions rely upon alumni donors to lower the sticker price of attendance, but even still, many private schools will cost much more than their public counterparts.
While school the cost of attendance might concern you, as it absolutely should, I’m here to reassure you that cost doesn’t necessarily have to be your main criterion for choosing colleges. Ultimately, you want to attend a school that you will allow you to flourish, academically and otherwise. If you’re the type of person who might be overwhelmed by large lecture courses or who would be flustered at having to navigate sprawling campuses, then perhaps the price difference would be worth it to you. You should go to the school where you’ll be most comfortable, where you feel confident you can carve out your own academic and social niche. If you never quite click with a school, and your grades and activities suffer for it, those tens of thousands of dollars you saved will have meant nothing, or at least far less than they would otherwise. Conversely, if looming debt loads make you unduly anxious or if you’re forced to hold multiple part-time jobs to pay for astronomical tuition, then perhaps the private school wouldn’t be right for you.
As trite as this sounds, only you fully know where you would be able to succeed at. Tuition cost is an important consideration, but in the end, it is just another consideration. When attending college, the end product is you. You need to decide where you can best grow, where you can best advance, so at the end of the four years you’ve matured into the smartest, most well-rounded You you can be. Consider class sizes and research availability; consider Greek life and campus life. Consider the cost of attendance, but don’t hang your hat solely on that issue. University is all about investing in yourself, and while you don’t want to overpay for the final product, you also don’t want cheap out that which cannot be replaced—you.