Admissions

Public Vs. Private: How to Find the Right School

Public and private institutions are relatively equal on many levels, including the quality of the education and access to job placement resources. However, if students aren’t aware of how these schools typically differ, it can either make or break their experience. Consider our list below before making your college decision. 

Public and private institutions are relatively equal on many levels, including the quality of the education and access to job placement resources. However, if students aren’t aware of how these schools typically differ, it can either make or break their experience. Consider our list below before making your college decision. 

  • Make sure two or three desired majors are there. 

Before choosing a college, narrow your career interest to two or three fields. Studies show that about 50-70 percent of students switch majors, so even if teens aren’t 100 percent certain on one major, they should be sure to attend a college that offers degrees for their backup interests, too. 

  • Consider the class-size. 

The size of an institution can definitely impact the college experience. Students looking for a small, close-knit “home away from home” may feel more comfortable at a smaller private institution, since public universities tend to be substantially larger. Students looking for a wider selection of course offerings and student-led organizations might want to consider public institutions. 

  • Location. 

Attending a college far away from home may not be for everyone. Some teens aren’t able to shake their homesickness and find the distance especially difficult during sick days, holidays (if they don’t have the means to go back home) or family emergencies. Additionally, not every college is located in a “college town,” which can be important for students looking for that experience. 

  • Student Life. 

Most colleges have a budget for campus-wide events and activities to create an active student life. Prospective students can get a sneak peek into what student life may be like by checking out the events calendar on the institution’s website, reading bulletin boards during their campus visit or even stalking the school’s social media pages. 

  • Look beyond the sticker price. 

Oftentimes, the sticker price doesn’t accurately reflect the net price students actually end up paying for their education. Some colleges tend to be more lucrative than others when putting together a student’s financial aid package, so it’s important to meet all financial aid deadlines and consult with representatives.   

“I encourage students to begin the FAFSA process early, therefore, if any extra documentation is needed they still have plenty of time to submit it. This is another reason we encourage students to not wait until the last minute to choose their institution. FAFSA is a lengthy process, but almost every college campus has a financial aid office with skilled professionals ready to assist students with any questions they may have. All they have to do is call,” said Kristin Brymer, Admissions Counselor at Auburn University at Montgomery. 

Understanding how these colleges differ can help each student pinpoint the right school for them and enhance their overall college experience. 

The Cost of Transferring 

Transferring to any college, let alone from a public to private (or vice versa), may cost students more than just their scholarship packages—it might also affect these key areas: 

  • Credits:

Public and private institutions often list similar courses differently, which can potentially cause students to lose credits and retake courses. 

  • Graduation:

Credits that don’t get accepted can cause a ripple effect and delay graduation, causing students to end up paying for 4.5-5 years of higher education, if not more. 

  • Study habits:

Smaller institutions tend to factor class participation in the grading process, so a student used to large lecture courses at public institutions may have to prepare more for class than he or she is used to doing. 

Students planning to transfer should consult with their college adviser to gain advice on which courses they should register for to help make the transferring process seamless. 

Parent-to-Parent 

“My oldest daughter was always set on going to Samford University because it was so similar to the experience she had in high school at a private school. But all of a sudden, after 13 years of her thinking she knew exactly what she wanted to do, she changed her mind and decided she wanted to go to Ole Miss. I think she realized that she needed a ‘bigger pond’.” 

– Beth K., mom of 3 girls 

 

As an editor, copywriter, and social media manager at exploreMedia, I work to develop content that is relevant and interesting to our readers and coordinate with contributing writers.

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