Frequently Asked Questions about College


1.  What is the difference between a private and public college and a “for-profit” or proprietary school?

          In general, public colleges and universities are lower priced, larger, and often offer graduate and doctoral degrees.  Private schools in general are more expensive, smaller and can sometimes only offer undergraduate degrees.  These are generalizations and there is always that college or university that is in opposition to this view but the majority of the time you can find this to be true.  For-profit colleges, or proprietary colleges, can often be seen in career colleges like Universal Technical Institute, DeVry University, ITT Technical Institute, University of Phoenix or Berkeley College.  These proprietary colleges differ from traditional non-profit colleges because they are operated by owners or investors.  Students that attend proprietary colleges often have a higher interest rate on loans and some scholarships are not eligible to be used there.


2.  What are the different types of degrees you can earn in college?

          You could earn certificates, associate degrees, bachelor degrees, master degrees, and doctoral level degrees.  When choosing a college it is important to look at what types of programs and degrees they offer so that you better plan for your future.  If the career field you are planning on entering, required a Bachelor of Science and you received a Bachelor of Arts, you may not be able to work in the specific career choice you want.  This can sometimes happen with certain majors where students have a choice between going for one type of degree or the other.  It’s really important to talk with you college advisor early to make sure you are on the right track.


3.  Are private schools always more expensive than public schools?

          No.  It is really important to look at a variety of “sticker-price” schools.  Private schools often have a lot more financial aid to offer students than public schools do.  However, it is always important to keep in mind that financial aid


4.  Does financial aid mean it’s money I keep?

          No.  Financial aid includes both monies you receive that you do not have to pay back and monies you have to pay back.  Grants and scholarships are forms of financial aid that you do not pay back.  Loans (and any form of them) will all need to be paid back.  Work study is often considered a form of financial aid as well but it works differently in the fact that the money paid out goes directly to the student, not necessarily towards the college bill.  It also means a student has to actively find a job on campus that qualifies for work study.


5.  When should I start planning for college?

          Probably the best time to start planning for college is in your freshman year.  This time should be spent thinking about potential careers and getting a general sense of financial limits with family and wants/needs from post-secondary education.  This should gradually get more in depth and involved as you progress through high school.  For more specific timelines for planning purposes, check out Checklists and Timelines.


6.  How do I make college affordable?

          This is a hard one because in general college is expensive.  If you want to get the most for your money, you will need to plan hard and start early.  Looking at schools that will really meet your career goals and best help prepare you to find and get a job after college will give you the most for your money.  College is extremely expensive; however, you need to think of it as an investment in your future and most likely the most expensive thing most people will ever buy outside of a house.  Many students (and some parents) get stuck on big name schools.  These schools may be well known, but may not be the best fit for your student, or have the highest success rate for placement after graduation.  Graduating from a great school doesn’t mean anything if you can’t be hired.  Employers as of recently have been showing a decline in hiring college graduates from top name schools because they do not have the right skill sets to make a great employee.  Making the most out of your investment is all about finding a college that not only offers you a great education, but helps you find a place in the career field of your choice after. 

          Another easy tip for making college affordable is looking at colleges outside of the east coast and west coast.  Looking at colleges outside of the “high congestion” areas (California, New England, Mid Atlantic states) can help you find a bigger bang for your buck!


For more FAQ’s check out college board’s FAQ pages for questions about applications, SAT's, and AP's.