Being an almost college graduate (and I say that with much excitement and anticipation), I find myself reflecting on my college experience.
The ups and downs of the post high school days. The stresses that come along with college: paying for it, making new friends, juggling work and school, enduring a long term relationship, finding my passion (and defining it), and gearing up for my future career.
As an upper classman about to embark on my own journey in this big bold world, I am grateful, now more than ever, that I chose my school…
College is one of the most critically defining moments of our lives, followed perhaps by your career and then for some, marriage (all of which offer significant commitment). So when I was looking at universities to attend my junior and senior years in high school, it was important for me to stay focused. I had to define my priorities and make note of what I wanted from my school. It is so easy to get caught up in family recommendations and to be swayed by a best friend’s selection, but to get the most out of your experience and not regret your decision, you must trust your own research and clearly define your goals. Here are some of the things I considered:
I wanted a university with small classroom sizes
I wanted to experience living in a city (aka cultural experiences, social opportunities and a party scene)
I wanted a school that was known for having strong community relationships and success placing students in internships
I wanted to attend a university with the a respected College or School of Business
The University of Tampa:
After countless college tours, researching online, some sleepless nights and applying to schools, I finally found my home at The University of Tampa, a private school on Florida’s Gulf Coast. For me, it offered the perfect location. In a city, near the beach (bonus), close enough to home but not close enough for a surprise visit from the parents- yikes!
And so my college journey began…
Private vs. Public:
Now some of you may be wondering what is the difference between a private and public university? And though, I may not be an expert on the specifics, I do know a few distinguishable characteristics.
1. Public universities are funded by the government and tend to be less expensive in many states (we’re talking tuition is sometimes half).
2. Public universities are a lot larger than private universities (I’m talking 40,000+ vs. 7,000). So if you’re not into big “city” type crowds, on campus busing and traveling 30 minutes between classes, maybe you should consider a private school.
3. Private schools tend to have more plush residential halls than public universities. Again, it all comes down to funding and student/family expectation.
4. Some private universities offer more ‘student work’ and financial aid opportunities for their students (but, of course they cost more so this could be a wash).
5. (In my Opinion) Students receive more specialized attention at private universities due the small classroom sizes. If you went to a big university (you know what I’m talking about), your intro Biology class could be 300+, while at a private university you’re looking at 60 maximum.
6. Students have a greater opportunity (simple supply vs. demand) to land a leadership position on campus with significantly less competition.
7. Students develop more of a sense of community. You tend to recognize faces and names around campus and the level of social accountability is probably higher.
Money doesn’t grow on trees:
Such a cliché, but so true. As we all know, college is not cheap! It’s no secret, some parents are now concerned about sending their children to college before they’ve even birthed them. And it’s a shame, that so many people are unable to attend college for financial reasons. So what can you do to pay for college without creating a mound of debt and preserving your financial integrity post school? Here are some few helpful tips. Many I have used to help pay for my education.
Scholarships, scholarships, scholarships! I can’t say it enough. There are so many scholarship opportunities that students lack to take advantage. For example, if you are attending a private school in the state of Florida, there is a grant called FRAG, Florida Resident Access Grant, which gives students a grant for just being a Florida resident! I know pretty awesome right?! Another opportunity for sunshine state residents: Florida Bright Futures – eligible for both private and public universities in the state of Florida. Check your state for like kind offerings. It is also really important for all students (in all states) to apply for FAFSA every year, to see if you are qualified for federal government assistance.
Grants! You wouldn’t believe what they offer grants for. It may be the subject you’re studying, your major, the sport your play, your hobby, your online or social media contacts or professional organization affiliation. There are also grants based upon various social classes, race, ethnicity, country of origin, etc. This is a great place to start for students who think they’ve exhausted all resources. Consider this FREE Money and much of it is untapped or under tapped! Check out Peterson’s to search grants.
Loans… Now, I know that word makes us all flinch. But loans in the short term can be very helpful, especially if you are really short on finical stick. The most important thing to remember about loans is to apply for the ones with the best terms post school and lowest interest rates. Check with a financial advisor for a professional opinion.
Take a leadership position on campus. This is the one area that many people overlook. There are so many leadership roles on your school’s campus, and many of them come with additional grant offerings. For example, I was a Resident Assistant and am now a Head Resident at one of the residential halls at my school. This position paid for my room and board, and provided awesome resume building experience. Other opportunities consist of having an executive board position on student organizations (some include: student government, student productions, student judicial board).
Clearly, I chose a private university where I was able to thrive with smaller classroom environments, a more intimate community, exciting internship opportunities, great people and an overall, awesome city! When you choose your college make sure you consider all opportunities and set your priorities. College offers many of the defining moments in our lives and is overall an amazing experience. Whether you choose private or public, make sure it’s the right one for YOU. After all, it’s your life!
Stay Beautiful ~ Marissa