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Advice about colleges?


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John’s Answer

Tracey as a prospective college student, you probably have an idea of what field you want to enter and perhaps which degree you'll need. Beyond that, though, you may be faced with quite a few choices when it comes to your education. One of the biggest decisions you'll make is choosing between a community college and a university.

First on the list of differences between community colleges and universities is the type of degrees and programs offered. Community colleges are sometimes referred to as '2-year colleges' and mostly offer associate's degree programs that you can typically complete in two years or less, depending on enrollment status (i.e., full or part time). Associate's degrees can be used on their own for jobs that require a 2-year degree or to prepare you for transfer to a university. Most community colleges also offer short-term certificate and diploma programs that train you for a specific career. On the other hand, universities generally offer programs that result in bachelor's, degrees and take 4–years to complete. Both community colleges and universities offer a variety of programs of study, but universities typically have a much larger range of options and sometimes have smaller colleges within them (e.g., Pre-med).

Alongside degree programs, cost is probably the biggest difference between community colleges and universities – and one of the main factors when it comes to choosing a school. That said, community colleges are much cheaper than universities; in fact, the College Board reports that the average annual cost of tuition and fees for a public 2-year college is $3,500 a year for in-district students. However, according to the same source, the average annual cost for a public 4-year university is $9,500 for in-state students and $24,000 for out-of-state students a year. For a private 4-year university, you can expect to cough up $33,000 per year in tuition and fees. The differences can be crazy. Due to these huge price differences, many students choose to complete a 2-year degree program at their local community college and then transfer to a university to complete their studies and earn a higher degree. Just remember that if you're thinking of doing this, always check to make sure your credits and degree will transfer when the time comes.

Community colleges typically have much less strict admission requirements than universities. In fact, many have open admission policies, meaning any person who graduates high school and applies gets accepted. However, certain community college programs may have stricter admission requirements, such as those in nursing, law enforcement, allied health and engineering technology. Universities tend to be much pickier when it comes to admissions, which means you better be ready to do more than just submit an application. Each individual college or university will have their own specific set of admission requirements and standards. Many schools will set minimum GPAs and/or test scores for admission qualification, while some will provide guidelines or preferences. The same is sometimes done with high school academic course schedules if your planning on a medical career Tracey.

You might be wondering, what degree do you need to be a pharmacist? Pharmacist requirements begin at the undergraduate level. There is no set-in-stone undergraduate degree for pharmacists. To get into a post-graduate pharmacy school, candidates will need at least a 2-year degree (though most will benefit from a bachelor's degree). After obtaining an undergraduate and graduate degree, pharmacist schooling continues at the graduate level. Pharmacist degree requirements include earning a Doctor of Pharmacy (often called a Pharm.D.). This is the final degree needed to be a pharmacist. A Pharm.D. is a professional degree that typically takes 4 years to complete.

Hope this helpful Tracy

John recommends the following next steps:

Attempt for a 2-year degree or bachelor's degree
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Attempt for a Pharm.D.
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Sirlei’s Answer

Hi Tracey,

When it comes to colleges, my advice is for you to first think about what you'd like to study, then research what colleges offer the degree you're looking for. Narrow down your options based on what's critical to you (cost, distance from home, size, etc) and, after you've narrowed it down to a few, go visit the schools to see which one makes you feel most comfortable. You're going to spend a lot of time there, and you want your experience to be the best possible.

Best of luck!

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Lauren’s Answer

Hi Tracey,
Great question! My advice for you would be to really put in the research to understand what various colleges have to offer. Look into the majors offered, what campus life is like, what organizations can you be apart of, how is the tuition set up, what are the college's values/what do they stand for, what is the community/area around the college like, is there a diverse set of courses to take, and even reviews on the professors that teach at the college in general. Really outweigh the pros and the cons of at least your top 5 colleges and go from there.

As for when you're a student in college, I recommend getting involved and really applying yourself. Take on new opportunities, and establish a network of people that you can leverage in whatever future career path you decide to embark on.

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Peregrin’s Answer

To layer my answer in with the advice of other posters here....

The most important thing is to know what you want to study, geographically where you would be interested in studying, and what you realistically can afford for college without getting into overwhelming student debt.

I went to both an undergraduate program (out of state to UC Riverside) and then to graduate school (Georgetown University). While I travelled across country (from MA) to attend UCR, it was a great education at a reasonable price -- even more reasonable if you are instate. It was not a top name school (probably still isn't unless you were interested in pre-med), but had the right balance and I had some leading teachers in the field I studied who were professors there. Georgetown was much more expensive and for all it has a lot of name recognition, I'm pretty sure that I did not get from it, in practical terms, what I put in. I absolutely had classmates who definitely were able to leverage it into good (even great) careers, but I wasn't one of them, so not sure how great of an investment that was relative to another school for my MA.

Once you have a sense of what your interest is and those other parameters, I believe you will be able to see a number of possibilities, and then as recommended by others, going to see as many as you can to get a sense of if you would really enjoy going there, if the campus life or the department you are looking at has what you want or professors you would want to learn from. Then you can make a truly informed decision.

Best of luck.

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Connor’s Answer

As a current undergrad, I wish I would have listed the important factors for myself in deciding a school. I always compared universities to each other, but never compared that back against a list that I had of priorities. I think it's important to keep the most important factors front of mind and to not feel pressured into a school due. Overall, trust your gut. I think there is a special feel about the "right" school for someone, so feel it out and I'm sure you will find the correct place. I would recommend having a diversity of options and not eliminating anything early on. Overall, if the school has your program and a good feeling around it, that is going to be the school that you do best in, so really listening to what your gut tells you is important.

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Simeon’s Answer

Unless you are going into law or medicine, I would focus on affordability. Make sure to not discount community college, especially for a lot of the intro level courses. If you have a pick of places, I would make a point of visiting their campuses to see if it feels like a good fit. Plus, you often get the chance to see flyers and ads for groups, activities, and events that you don't get to see from just visiting the college's website.

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