Do You Have To Attend the Best College?

by mike on July 28, 2011

Everyone knows that the college you choose to attend is vital to your future success.  Or is it?  There are many things that factor into how successful you will be in life.  When it comes down to it, the college you choose to attend is not really that important.  There are some minor cases where the college you choose is important, but most likely for you it really is not that important.

I’ll explain my experience and how I would have done it differently.

There were many factors contributing to why I chose what college to attend.  I considered trying to play basketball at a junior college.  It was also very tempting to stay in my hometown where I had just started dating my (now) wife, where she was going to be attending.  I didn’t make my decision until June, 2 months before classes started.

The decision had come down to three different schools: the local junior college (and possibly try to play basketball), the local private university, or an out of state (but only a little over an hour away) public university.

Ultimately, the most important factor that contributed to my decision was my major.  I was going to be a pre-med major with the hopes of being a pediatrician someday.  I loved kids and I thought it would be awesome to be a doctor.  After all, they make really good money, right?

Of the three schools on my list, the out of state public university definitely had the best pre-med program.  So, that is where I chose to go.  The thought of the cost of college or student loans did not even enter my mind.

Obviously, since I now write and speak about money, I am not a doctor.  I ended up changing my major part way through college just like most college students do. (organic chemistry had a little bit to do with that!)  I got my degree in education, which financially speaking, is a far cry from getting a biology pre-med degree with the hope of going to medical school.

How would I have done things different?

If I would have to do it all over again, I would go to the local community college for 2 years, then an IN-STATE university (there was one about the same distance away than the out-of-state one I went to).  The cost would have been significantly less.  In fact, I am sure with scholarships and working as much as I did, I could have gone without any student loans.

There are two reasons I would have been fine doing it this way:

1)  I ended up changing my major.  I don’t know of too many teachers who have trouble getting jobs because of the college they went to.

2) Even if I had stayed pre-med, getting into medical school still would not have mattered what school I went to.  I was the one in charge of how much I learned and how much work I put into my school.  If I would have worked hard, had an outstanding GPA and studied like crazy for the MCAT (the test to get into medical school), it really would not have mattered much where I went.  In fact, because I went to such a tough school, I had a decent GPA, but not a great one.  In fact, it would have been on the borderline to even get into medical school.  Doing the junior college/in-state rout, I am convinced that my GPA would have been much higher.  That very well may have put me in a better position to get into school.  I realize there is a lot that goes into whether you get in or not, but my point is that it still is ultimately about me and my work, not the name on my diploma.

The bottom line is that you should not choose what school you go to based on prestige.  You should base it on whether you can afford it or not.  I know it may seem crazy, but I highly recommend going to school without student loans.  I have seen what having student loans does to people’s lives five, ten, even twenty years after graduating.  There are too many things that happen in life that do not guarantee a huge amount of money you think you are going to make to pay off your loans.  Pick a college you can afford, put the hard work in, and you will not only be successful, you will start that path to success debt free!

Photo Source: Ozvoldjj

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