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Should I go to a more expensive, prestigious school for the experience and opportunities, or take a more affordable route so that I will have less financial burden in the future?

I got accepted to UCLA, however, I am wondering if it is worthwhile to attend UCLA if it means that I will create more debt for myself in the future. I want the diversity, club organizations, experience, and research opportunities that it offers (I am an Undeclared- Life Sciences major at the moment), although I am not sure what I want to do for a career or exactly what major I want. I have many varying interests in completely different areas (such as acrobatics, dance, biology, theater), and I am hoping that by attending such a diverse university that I will be able to explore these interests and define what is best for me. But then again, the debt (*sigh*). I also realize that it will be more cutthroat at such a university, and therefore I will have to dedicate more time towards studying and possibly might not be able to fit all the things I want to do into my schedule. If I go to a more affordable school, I may not have the same opportunities as at UCLA or be around as driven students as myself. Also, IT'S UCLA!! What should I do??
#ucla #affordablility #experience #undeclared #choosing-a-college #college-selection #college #college-advice


Hi Seneca, Congratulation on getting into UCLA!! That is a great school to attend if you have the opportunity to go! If your first choice is UCLA, I would encourage you to go disregard of the financial burden. From my point of view, you can always pay it off in the future with student loan and other financial help. Opportunity is important. If you missed it once, you would never be able to redo it again. Since this school ranking is pretty high, you would be able to receive a high level of education than the other affordable schools. Your future job also depends on your college and how much you get out of it. This is solely a suggestion from a high school junior. If I got a chance to go, I would not miss it. Hope you can make a good choice that you would not regret. Joy Joy Z.

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Eric’s Answer

I agree that overall the sum total of the College Experience is unparalleled and if anyone gets a chance to attend a great campus like UCLA, it will be immensely valuable for life. This is especially true if you are still not sure what areas or work and study may drive your passions.

From a financial standpoint, one area of change over recent decades has been the rise or specialization and graduate degrees in various lines of work. If you do happen to already know what general area of study you want to focus on, it could be wise to develop a longer-term view of you potential career.

In some case, if you already know that you are going to pursue additional Graduate Degrees it may be better to attend smaller or more specialized schools for Undergrad studies. This was the approach that I took.

Quite often, you can graduate with a 4 year degree, go to work for a good firm and then get them to sponsor through a Masters degree at a top College or University. Most companies have continuing education programs and offer some time off and partial tuition reimbursements as well.

I still would not pass up an opportunity at a great school like UCLA unless I knew specifically that was planning additional graduate studies as well. Even in that case, it still would be tough to pass on.

Thanks and good luck.

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Mark’s Answer

All of those things you mentioned can be experienced at almost any large public university. UCLA is not unique in this way. I would say UCLA has name recognition but is that worth it for taking on a ton of debt? If you get good grades at a well known public university you will still have many of the same opportunities. The other thing I would worry about is that you are undecided. So is it possible you could earn a degree that doesn't have the ROI but you are strapped with a ton of debt? This seems to be very common today. If you were getting an engineering degree from UCLA, that's a different story. I would be much less hesitant since you know you will have the salary to pay it off. I do like Chau's idea of going to community college to save on the first two years. I would also consider working and go part-time that way your don't have to take out as much loans.

Good luck,
Mark

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Chau’s Answer

Hi Seneca,


First off, congrats on your acceptance into UCLA! I'm a former Bruin and, like you, was an Undeclared-Life Sciences major.


Some perspective as you choose between UCLA, and potentially a less expensive school:

  • If you go to UCLA, you will definitely get the range of experiences you're looking for (diversity, clubs, experience, and research opportunities). In fact, I dabbled in all of that! I met a ton of different people, joined a TON of clubs -- ranging from pre-law, to environmental, to community service, to cultural -- and greatly enjoyed it. There's SO much to see and do! I also served as a lab assistant in the Psychology department, and ended up getting mentioned in the PhD research paper that my supervisor published. Super awesome.
  • However, if you are concerned about cost, UCLA can definitely be really expensive. That kind of debt is considerable, and it may weigh on you for years after graduation. That is simply today's reality, and you are right to be thinking about it. Do you have scholarships going in? Are you eligible for financial aid in the form of grants (that you don't have to pay back)? I myself took on a work-study job, in which I worked PT during school and was able to make some money to help alleviate my debt.
  • Finally, one alternative is to forgo the fall admission, and take your general education at a community college for two years. Then transfer into UCLA. My good friend did this -- she saved a ton of money at community college, got great grades, and then transferred as a 3rd year student. She ended up being joining some of the same clubs as me, and had a great time at UCLA. She missed out on the dorm experience (which for me was amazing) but did get the same prestigious UCLA degree at the end of the 4 years.

Hope that helps inform some of your decision-making. Best of luck!

Chau


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