Applying to and choosing a college has never been a more stressful decision than it currently is. Without even thinking of the fierce competition and the astronomical tuition fees, merely choosing which schools to apply to is a complicated process. To apply to a private or a public institution of higher learning is a tough choice to make, and has many factors. To help you start to understand the differences and make the right choice, here’s what you should know about attending a private college or university.
When faced with the choice between attending a private school and a public school, many decisions come down to the biggest difference between the two: cost. Depending on the state you live in and your academic status, attending a public state school can be under $10,000 a year, and in some cases almost free. However, private institutions are privately operated and use their large endowments to make their own rules, as they are independent of the government. Thus, most private colleges charge enormous tuition fees, many starting at around $35,000 a year.
However, don’t be totally deterred yet. Many private colleges or universities offer substantial financial aid packages and even grants, so that attendance at their school is not based solely on financial standing. But as the recent economic downturn has made clear, be careful of taking on six figures of student loan debt, as it is often impossible to pay back in a timely manner.
Private institutions almost universally have smaller student bodies. This means that not only are class sizes smaller, but the community tends to be very closely knit among both students and professors. This means you get the chance to know your professors and interact with them, enriching your overall academic experience. And when there are fewer students in each class, it is easier to fully participate and make the most of your four years. On the flipside, smaller schools mean smaller departments, so if your area of study is not in a large or prestigious department, it can sometimes be difficult to get all the required resources.
In general, private universities and colleges have more rigorous academic standards of excellence. Because the student body is the best of where they came from, academic competition among students may be fierce, and professors usually hold their students to soaring standards. While this can push the students to do and be more than they thought they could, it can also be a high-stress environment.
Many of the top institutes of higher learning in the United States are private institutions. Because their names are synonymous with excellence and prestige, the elite and abundant application pool generally means a very low rate of acceptance. Harvard, Yale, and all the other Ivy League schools are example of highly prestigious private institutions. But just because these schools have the big names doesn’t mean that smaller private colleges and public universities aren’t just as good or better to attend. Many public universities have excellent reputations, and a number of smaller private schools have the resources to nurture talent and academic excellence in a more intimate environment.