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Let's Go School Shopping

Choosing which school one wants to attend can be a bit like buying a new car. Let's talk about the different steps involved in buying a car. The first step is to narrow down what kind of car you are interested in. Do you want a sports car, a mini-van, a truck? Cost is a big factor, and before you go too far, you must align your car type with your resources. What that means is that although you may know you are interested in a sports sedan - the price range for that particular vehicle can vary from $15,000 to $150,000. You need to limit your search to those cars within your preferred type that are in your price range. It would be natural to want the nicest, most expensive car of your preferred type, but if it is unattainable financially, you are just setting yourself up for disappointment later on when you have to settle for something else. This is why knowing your price point early on in the search is important.


Once you know what type of car you are interested in and what your price range is, the next step is to evaluate any existing parameters that necessitate particular selections. What this means is if you are unable to drive a stick shift, you need a car that comes in automatic. If you live in Alaska, although you would like a convertible, you need a car that can handle the snow and the cold. If you have a family of 4 you need a car with a back seat. You must tailor the specific options to your particular circumstances. Once you have your selected options narrowed down to 4 or 5 top contenders, you will want to compare them against each other and see how they stack up: which ones have better safety records; how do the resale values hold up; what different features are offered on particular models? There are great on-line resources that unable you to perform these comparisons. Consumer Reports is one of the best ones. Once all that is done, the last step is to actually test drive the vehicles. See which one feels most comfortable to you. Although it can be a lengthly process, going through these steps is the best way to guarantee you will happy with your chosen selection.


Finding the right college is much the same process. The fist thing you must determine is what type of school are you interested in. Do you want to attend a large state school, or a private small school? Are you looking for a four-year university, or are you wanting a community college. Before you go too far in your search, you must understand what your financial resurces are. You may want to attend an Ivy League school, but if it is not financially feasible and you are unable, or do not want to incur massive debt, then you need to not waste your time looking into that option. Once you have your basic parameters and cost range in mind, you need to narrow down the search to your particular circumstances. For instance, what are your test scores and GPA, what field of study are you most interested in, is there a particular region or state you want to stay in, do you have any disabilities that need to be taken into account? With these criteria added to the mix, you should be able to narrow down your selections to a manageable number. Your next step is to compare these top contenders to see how they measure against each other. You need to make sure you determine which issues are most important to you and then use that as a measure of comparison. Just as Consumer Reports is a great resource in deciding what car to purchase, there are many useful websites that can aid you in your college search - both narrowing down your selections, and then comparing your chosen selections. Some of my favorites are listed on the Resource Page of this site. Just as the final step in purchasing a car is to test drive your final selections to determine which one feels right, a final step in choosing a school is visiting the school to get a sense of how it feels and if it suits you. But, that topic is for next week...

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