Your Economic Status
Are you currently economically stable or unstable? You can answer this question by calculating your total monthly expenses and subtracting that amount from your total monthly income (before taxes). If your monthly expenses are greater than your monthly income you're economically unstable, which could be problematic if you want to attend college.
These calculations can also show whether or not you'll be able to afford working fewer hours in order to spend more time studying. The benefits of working full time while in college may be that you'll incur less school debt after graduating. However, the disadvantage is that you'll have a restricted study agenda; you'll need to strategically plan your hours in order to effectively balance work and school.
What Kind of Aid Is Available?
You need to research what financial aid options are available to help cover your college expenses. You may be able to qualify for financial aid based on your own income if you are independent or your parents' income if you are still their dependent. You can learn more about different kinds of aid, such as grants, work study, or loans, by visiting the Federal Student Aid website (www.studentaid.ed.gov). Most schools also offer institutional scholarships or grants, and you can learn about those opportunities by visiting each school's website. Once you figure out what kinds of aid you're qualified to receive, you can estimate how much you need to pay out of pocket, or if you'll need to apply for personal loans.
Your Academic Goals
You need to know your purpose for attending college. Is it to earn more money after graduating? Is it to gain knowledge? Is it to gain career-specific training? Whatever the reason is, make sure your investment of time and money makes sense and fits with your life aspirations.
What Are Some Alternatives to Traditional 4-Year Programs?
There are hundreds of apprentice-based occupations documented with the U.S. Department of Labor, and women and minorities especially are often encouraged to apply for them. Apprenticeships usually last 2-6 years, and they allow participants to make money while gaining hands-on, occupational skills. Apprentices also take part in classroom training, the expense of which may be covered by sponsoring organizations.
Students interested in learning a specific trade or profession can look to technical schools and community colleges. These types of institutions present viable and generally less costly alternatives to traditional colleges and universities. Participants may become work-ready by earning certificates, diplomas or associate's degrees, most of which take less time to earn than a traditional 4-year degree.
While factors of cost, time and personal commitments may affect your decision to further your education, consider the career possibilities that could open for you by taking the next step.
Are you thinking about enrolling in a 2- or 4-year degree program but not sure what to major in? Find out what your degree path in college can net you in the future.