How To Strike a Balance Between an Affordable College and a Dream School

Flickr user Connie Smith

Quite a few students in high school already have their dream school chosen, but for some it may be out of reach financially. Finding balance between an affordable college and your dream school may present you with solutions.

Investigate Scholarships and Financial Aid Through Your Dream School

Many juniors and seniors in high school are actually surprised when they learn that their dream schools actually offer scholarships, financial aid, and grants to qualifying students. Several top colleges and universities offer full tuition grants that do not need to be repaid if you are accepted and demonstrate financial need.

It’s important to do your research thoroughly into your dream school. There may be doors there that you didn’t realize that can make it just as affordable as your second choice.

Go To an Affordable College for Two Years

Another avenue that may be open to you is going to an affordable school for the first two years of your college career. This allows you to still work towards your degree while not racking up too much debt. In the end, you will have much less debt if you only go to your expensive dream school for your junior and senior year. You can also speed up the process by taking more classes each semester or during the summer.

However, if you’re planning on going to your dream school after the affordable college, always double check that the credits will transfer to the dream school. You don’t want to spend two years in classes only to find out they’re not transferable. Research this before you send in your intent to enroll and even before you sign up for each individual course. Some classes may transfer, while others do not.

Go To Your Dream College for Graduate School

A perfect way to find balance and attend both the affordable school and your dream school, is to choose the more affordable option for your Bachelor’s and attend your dream college for your Master’s. This is an especially good idea if you have to attend school beyond your Bachelor’s, whether for medical, law, or another subject.

This is another aspect you will want to thoroughly research. Does the affordable school offer the classes you need? Will you be able to afford the debt of graduate school? Consider all aspects.

There’s no easy decision when it comes to choosing between an affordable college or a dream school. Each choice requires plenty of research and thought on your part. After all, your dream school may not be appealing to you anymore after two or four years.

Remember to also look beyond the school: How is your career outlook? Will you be able to pay off your debt if you attend the dream school? There are several factors to consider before making your decision. If you’re still unsure, talk to other adults: your parents, your guidance counselor, or a teacher. They may offer advice to help you choose between the two, but always remember it’s your final decision where you attend.

Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid for schools around the US—for FREE!

Hilary Cairns

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