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The Intelligent Way to Pick a College

Instead of picking a college based on location, name cache or where it ranks on a list, why not make a decision based on the degree you really want? Just because your dad is an alumnus or your boyfriend is going to a particular school doesn’t make it the best educational fit for you.

Whether you’re a recent high school graduate or going back to school, a degree (and not necessarily a school’s pedigree) can be your ticket to a good paycheck. Here are a few factors to consider when choosing where to go.

Tip #1 – Pick the right program

You’ve decided what you’d like to do with your professional life, now where do you go to learn? Like people, institutes of higher learning have strengths and weaknesses. It’s easy to get wowed by fancy rankings and accolades, but let’s face it, not all programs are created equal. If you’re interested in performing arts, find schools that excel in this subject and start to narrow them down. Nothing is more disappointing than getting accepted to the “perfect” school only to realize they don’t offer the degree you want.

Tip #2 – Consider campus culture

Everyone has a different learning style and there’s nothing wrong with seeking things like a laid-back campus or great party scene. Believe it or not, it is possible to get a quality education, have some fun and graduate with a good paycheck. Don’t believe us? Take a look at our top three party colleges by salary potential:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
– $51,500
University of California, Santa Barbara – $47,300
University of Colorado, Boulder – $45,900

Tip #3 – Total cost of attendance

Unless you’ve been financially blessed, the cost of tuition is a concern for many college attendees. Some schools offer better scholarships, student loans and financial aid packages than others, so it’s smart to do some research. It’s also important to consider the local cost of living beyond the classroom – some cities are notoriously expensive and that can play into your overall quality of life.

Source: Starting median pay is for typical starting graduates who are full-time employees with 5 years of experience or less in their career or field who hold a bachelor's degree and no higher degrees.

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(Photo credit: flickr/JSmith)

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