Your college education is one of the biggest investments you’ll make in a lifetime. How do you navigate the complex process, while understanding all that you’re getting for your money? Below, we offer some insider advice for your college search and how to weigh the cost of college with the value of your investment.
1. Know what’s most important to you.
The first step to choosing a college is deciding what makes a place the right fit for you. Figure out your “must haves.” Do you want professors who are passionate about helping you discover your dream? Are you looking for fellow students who, like you, are eager to make a difference? How important is a close-knit campus community, where people greet you by name? Or making new friends from across the globe who help you see the world in a bigger way? Deciding what’s really important to you will help you get the most out of college — and find a school that fits.
2. Seek first-hand perspectives.
What unique opportunities and advantages does a college provide that make it worth the price? Quiz current students and alumni of schools that interest you for their views. Their insights can be a helpful benchmark. We asked parents of students at St. Edward’s to weigh in on this topic. Hear their perspectives in this video.
3. Make a plan — the sooner the better.
Get familiar with the steps required to research, apply and enroll in colleges, and discuss the process with your parents and high school counselor. You’ll want to plan early to get the best shot at your top schools and a strong financial aid offer.
Mark your calendar with important deadlines for submitting your application, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and enrolling in the school you choose. Missing a deadline can cost you hefty financial penalties. Planning ahead will prevent unwanted surprises and keep your college search on track.
4. Compare apples to apples.
There’s often a big difference between a college’s sticker price and what you actually pay. Because of financial aid, most students pay much less than the sticker price. For example, at St. Edward’s, the average tuition our first-year students pay is less than half of our sticker price due to the financial aid we offer.
To make a true apples-to-apples comparison between schools, estimate your out-of-pocket cost at each university by using their net-price calculator. It factors the cost of attendance with your eligible scholarships and grants — money you don’t have to pay back.
Once you’ve calculated your net price for each school, you may find that some schools with higher sticker prices are far more affordable than you think. Or that your dream school is only slightly more costly than your other choices. That’s when you want to really focus on value versus cost. (More on that coming up.)
5. Borrow wisely.
Along with scholarships and grants, most families rely on loans to help finance a college education. Know your bottom line and how much you’re willing to borrow. And borrow only what is necessary to pay for your education. Our Director of Student Financial Services offers smart tips for successful borrowing in this video.
6. Understand the value of your college investment.
While college is a major expense, it’s an investment that appreciates over a lifetime. It’s important to realize its long-term impact on your career and future.
As you explore the value different schools offer, consider a sampling of what you get at St. Edward’s that adds up to a return on your investment: small classes taught by professors who get to know you; critical and creative thinking skills; a success coach and academic advisor who guide and support you throughout your college career; internship and research opportunities in Austin and beyond; international learning experiences; faculty and alumni networks; career-services support for life; and post-graduate success as proven by our alumni.
At St. Edward’s, we’re invested in your future. Our educational experience is personalized to your goals. It’s sustainable, equipping you for today’s careers and those in the decades to come. It prepares you to graduate with self-confidence and purpose, ready and able to contribute to a better world.