Reimagine Your Future

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  • December 14, 2018

The Basics

The overall culture of your college may play as big a role in your future success as your degree. Figuring out what’s important to you will help you narrow the field when choosing a college, and you may discover some options that hadn’t even been on your radar!

Starting your search with the basics will help you identify the colleges that will best suit you academically and personally. Each of us has unique needs and values, and what is important to you may not matter to someone else. Take location, for instance. If you don’t want to be more than 100 miles from home, then schools on the other side of the globe are out! The same goes for school size, cost, and other basic college criteria. By identifying your needs early on, you can eliminate hundreds of schools and focus on the things that will make your school a perfect fit.

You should also consider the ambiance of your surroundings when choosing a college. If you can’t live without nightlife, think city! If you’re into the great outdoors, you might want to go rural. There are colleges in every environment you can imagine, from tiny towns in Minnesota to the middle of Manhattan.

If you’ve always lived in the suburbs, an urban campus can be an adventure. But after a few weeks, will you yearn for grassy fields and open space? On the other hand, if you’re used to malls and movie theaters and choose a college in a rural area, will you be racing into the student center at midnight, desperately seeking noise, lights, and people? When examining the options in a college guide, think about where you grew up and how much of a change you want.


Don’t forget to consider the sizes of the schools in your college search. Colleges come in all sizes, from a school in California that enrolls only 26 students to a university like Penn State that can enroll 30,000 or more. Which one is better? That depends on you.

  • Did you go to a small high school or a large one?
  • Did you grow up in a city or a rural area?
  • Do you like being places where everybody knows you, or do you like the anonymity of a crowd?

Large schools typically have large campuses, as well as a healthy selection of student services and things to do; a small college may offer individualized attention, as well as a more intimate and personalized experience. You might even want to think about how far you want to walk to get from one class to another. All of those little details of college may affect your decision.

The different types of schools on your list can often be overlooked when you’re considering college criteria, but you should keep in mind that all colleges and universities are not the same.

Other Options

Instead of taking 4 years of your life to get a degree, a vocational school will let you get it done in two years (or less)! You can even complete your studies online if you prefer. A vocational school is a career-focused school that prepares and trains students for specific occupations. Vocational schools – also called trade schools, technical schools or career schools – offer a number of advantages to students.

  • Faster completion times. Most vocational school programs take from a few months to two years to complete, which means you can enter the workforce quickly.
  • No general education courses. Your education will focus only on the skills necessary for your career, with few or no “extras”.
  • Smaller classes. With fewer students in each class, instructors can provide hands-on learning opportunities and be more accessible to their students.
  • Lower cost. The cost of attending a vocational school will vary depending on the program and location, but it will be thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars less than attending a traditional college program. With Summit Academy there is NO OUT-OF-POCKET COST.
  • Highly specialized training. Your education will involve hands-on training specific to your field, and will likely take place in a setting similar to your future workplace. As a vocational school graduate, you should need very little on-the-job training.


The cost of college is something most parents think about during the college search process. Not all colleges and universities have the same price tag and there are a variety of ways to cut your costs. Most schools offer financial aid, scholarships, and work-study programs, in addition to student loans.

Consider your special talents outside of the classroom. You may qualify for a full ride if you can carry a tune or a football (or both) while making the grade. Even if you don’t get a full ride, every little bit helps. Public universities often offer much lower tuition rates to in-state students, but their fees to out-of-state residents are usually similar to private schools. Private institutions charge everyone the same tuition, but they often have privately-funded scholarships, so it’s worth applying even if the price tag seems too high.

A school’s tuition isn’t necessarily the exact amount you’ll pay, because it doesn’t reflect financial aid or extra expenses like housing and books. It’s still wise to check out tuition figures when considering college information, as it may expand or diminish your options, depending on your financial situation.

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