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Choosing the right school

Choosing the right school is important because you want to make sure you get a good education for the time and money you spend. Look for a school that has the classes, programs, and resources you need to reach your goals and make your investment worthwhile. Created by Sal Khan.

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  • sneak peak green style avatar for user G. Tarun
    How much should quality of residence matter when picking a school? (I know this is a question better asked in the College Admissions course!)

    I've once had to compromise between a near-perfect curriculum but not-so-suitable residence, and a decent curriculum but great residence for undergrad. In the long run, it didn't seem to matter much: there's the qualitative difference between the two places of course, but it didn't affect my post-college prospects.
    (5 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      You're absolutely right. This question belongs in the college admissions course.
      Choosing the near perfect curriculum with the not-so-suitable residence over the perfect dorm and only "decent" curriculum is not about housing and classes, it is about deferring pleasure. Can you endure the meat and potatoes course in order to get to the ice cream dessert, or must you have the ice cream first, because that's what you really want? How you answer the question about a meal will help you understand how to answer the question about the college housing.
      (5 votes)

Video transcript

- So let's think a little bit about how you might decide where you want to go to college. And the first thing I'll remind you, because this can oftentimes be a pretty stressful decision, is that there is no right decision. You just need to make the decision right. Now, what do I mean by that? Is there are plenty of great colleges and universities and community colleges. And if you go to them with an attitude of, "Hey, I'm going to take advantage of what this campus, what this program has to offer. I'm going to put myself out of my comfort zone. I'm going to sign up for clubs. I'm going to introduce myself to people. I'm going to try to get internships. I'm gonna try to join co-op programs. I'm gonna try to get to know my professors," you'll probably do pretty well, pretty much, as long as you go to one of these reasonable places. Now, on the other hand, you could go to some of the fanciest colleges on the planet, but if you go there a little bit afraid to step out of your comfort zone, if you're a little bit passive about your education, you kinda just let the education happen to you as opposed to you happening to the eduction, then it might not be great. Or it just might not be a great fit for you for whatever reason. So it's not about someplace being perfect. It's about what you bring to it. Now, with that said, there probably are certain types of places that you might thrive more than others. So the first thing, and we talk about this in other videos, you can look at the cost of different options and always keep in mind things like financial aid. Don't just look at the sticker cost. Sometimes the financial aid at some of the most expensive universities is the most significant financial aid. So definitely take a look at that. But it's not just about cost. It's also about benefit. Talk to a lot of folks, especially students who are at that program, ideally people who are recent graduates or who graduated maybe five or 10 years ago, and ask them about both their career opportunities, any regrets they might have, whether what they thought was going to happen happened. Was it better than expected? Was it worse than expected? And also about their experience. There could be two folks who end up in a similar place career-wise and money-wise, but one might say, "Yeah, you know, my four years of college really, it wasn't really working out for me. It wasn't really, weren't really great years." And there could be someone else who says, "Well, you know, those were some of the best years of my life. I met some of my best friends. I was so stimulated," et cetera. So that has to be part of the equation too. We're not living just to make money and have a job and pay bills. Now, that's important too, but it's also about having an experience in life that you think might be fulfilling and make you a better person in a lot of ways. Now, your general options are going to be, obviously, you could go to a four-year college, four-year colleges. You'll often have your in-state colleges, which will tend to have lower tuition. And then you might have the private colleges, which will have, tend to have higher tuition. But once again, keep in mind things like financial aid. Don't write off an expensive university without looking a little bit into how they give financial aid and whether you might be able to get a pretty good financial aid package. Now, you also have associate programs, community colleges. These might be really great options. The cost can be significant lower, especially 'cause they're close to home. Maybe you live at home. And in many cases, you can go to one of those programs, and sometimes get a great job coming out of them, or you can transfer to a four-year degree and save some money in the process for at least two first two years. The one thing I will tell you to be a little bit wary of are what I would, and I don't wanna say, you know, all for-profit universities are bad or good or et cetera, but when you're looking at colleges and associate programs that are for-profit, so they aren't not-for-profit organizations, they're owned by a corporation, you just have to be a little bit wary about what their motivations are. Especially many times, they'll have a lotta marketing. They'll really talk about all of the things that they're doing for their students. But you need to ask the hard questions to make sure that those outcomes are really happening. I'll tell you a story. When I used to work at an investment fund, we once talked to a publicly traded company that ran some of these associate programs. And I have to tell you, (laughing) they seemed very focused on what their marketing costs were and how long the students needed to spend at their campus or their online program in order for them to collect the government grants. But they really didn't have great outcomes. And so this was a situation where their motivation, and I'm not saying this going to be the case for all for-profit universities, but their motivation was definitely, "Hey, you know, we wanna market as aggressively as possible, get people through the door, collect some of that government grant money, and then yeah, you know, hopefully something good happens to them afterwards," but they didn't seem as focused there. And it's also not to say that all not-for-profit universities are perfect either. Similarly, you have to really scrutinize. They might give you some numbers about, "Hey, our average graduate does this or the average graduate with a job gets this." But you have to say, "Well, how many of them get a job? And how quickly do they get a job?" I would recommend actually talking to real people, recent graduates, seniors looking to get a job, to see if those outcomes really hold up. Or did they have to really hustle for them in ways that maybe the college didn't support them that much? That's real information. So what I would recommend, keep a reasonable number of options, some that might be a little bit more of a stretch, some that might be your backup and very affordable, you know they are going to be. But then before you make the decision, definitely visit the campus, see how it feels, talk to people on the campus, see if it resonates, their experience seems like something you'd want. And also talk to as many people as possible, especially recent grads or seniors that might be looking for a job. And don't be afraid to ask (laughing) what I would call slightly impolite questions, which is like, "How much money are you making? Are you stressed about it? Are you making what you thought you were? How much did the school help you with career placement? Do you think you would've gotten this job if you went someplace else? Do you wish you majored in something else? Do you have any?" et cetera. So you have your future in front of you. Just ask really, really good questions of a lot of folks. Be a little bit nosy. Don't always accept what people tell you, especially the universities, at face value. Double check for yourself. And then you'll probably be in pretty good shape.