Choosing a College

Many options are available for continuing your education after high school. After you have narrowed your interests and possible careers and developed a list of colleges to explore, ask some questions. There are lots of things to consider

You can find the answers by reading the college’s catalogs, exploring web sites, talking with current students, and talking with your counselor or college advisor. Be sure to find answers to all of your questions. It’s easier to succeed at college when you find the right fit.

Click here for help choosing a college.

You can use the College Scorecard to find out more about a college’s affordability and value so you can make more informed decisions about which college to attend.

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Selectivity and MatchShow More

Selectivity is a word used to describe how competitive a college’s admissions process is.

If a college accepts only a third of the students who apply, it is considered highly competitive. If the college accepts almost all high school graduates, it is considered noncompetitive. See where you fit based on your ACT/SAT score.

In-State or Out-of-StateShow More

One decision you have to make when exploring colleges is whether you want to go to college in state or if you want to go somewhere out of state. Look at all the factors. Do you hate cold weather and want to be in sunny Southern California? Do you want to stay close to home to be near your family? Do you want to venture someplace new?

The cost of going to school in Illinois is likely to be less than going out-of-state. Public universities in Illinois offer an in-state rate to students who live in Illinois. If you apply to an out-of-state public institution, like Ohio State University or University of Michigan, you will pay higher tuition rates. Also, if you stay in Illinois, you may be eligible for a MAP Grant, which will reduce the cost of your tuition.

But don’t rule out out-of-state colleges on cost alone. Scholarships and grants are available to students who go to out-of-state colleges.


Public or PrivateShow More

Public schools, like the University of Illinois or Chicago State University, receive some funds from the state government which is why they are called “public.” Private schools, like the University of Chicago, do not receive any support from the government and receive funds from private donations.

The tuition is lower at public colleges and universities than at private ones. But don’t rule out private colleges on cost alone. Private colleges may have more money for scholarships for qualified students.

Use a college calculator to figure out what the average costs will be at public community colleges, public four-year colleges, and private four-year colleges. Remember, this is not what you will pay. That will depend on what your family can pay and the financial aid package that you receive.

4-year, 2-year, and Trade SchoolsShow More

When choosing the college you want to attend, it is important that you keep in mind what you want to do after college. Each type of college is different and will open up different doors for you after graduation.

Four-year Colleges

Four-year colleges allow you to study an array of subjects while still preparing you for a career. Four-year colleges are colleges where you earn a bachelor’s degree. However, it may take more or less than four years to complete your degree depending on your course load, major, and other factors. Most of these colleges also offer some type of advanced degree such as a master’s or doctoral degree. By earning a bachelor’s degree, you will be more likely to get paid more than people who have not earned their bachelor’s degree. You will also have the opportunity to fill a wider variety of job positions than people who attend a two-year college or trade school.

Two-year Colleges

Two-year colleges are also called community colleges or junior colleges. These colleges follow an open admissions policy, which means they accept all students with a high school diploma or the equivalent. Two-year colleges allow you to earn an Associate’s degree and prepare you for a career. Two-year colleges also prepare you to continue your education at a four-year college by allowing you to complete the basic classes of a four-year college at a lower price. The cost of attending a two-year college is significantly lower than the cost of attending a four-year college.

Trade and Technical Schools

Trade schools or technical schools offer certification or licensure in specialized programs that generally take less than two year to complete. Trade schools prepare you for a specific career that you want. Becoming a hairstylist, auto mechanic, plumber, or electrician are just a few of the many careers that require some type of trade certification or licensure.

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