Ask all the right questions

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Tidewater_ask_questionsYour honest answers to these questions will help you decide what kind of college is the best fit for you, financially, academically and personally.

1. How much can you afford in tuition, fees and room and board?

Tuition alone can range from $5,000 a year for Tidewater Community College to $50,000 or more a year for private colleges. If you live on campus, room and board will run around $8,000 on top of that. TCC’s Karen Campbell said, “Students often don’t think about incidentals. You have to wash your clothes, buy food and put gas in your car.”

Students who decide to live at home and attend community college will have the lowest costs. By completing the first two years of required courses at a community college and transferring to a university to complete your bachelor’s degree you can save thousands and avoid crippling student loan debt.

2. Can you meet the entrance requirements?

Colleges can be very selective, and clearly someone with a low grade-point average will have a hard time getting into Harvard. If you don’t get into your dream school on the first try, consider attending community college, raising your GPA and then transferring after you prove you’re a serious student.

Don’t despair if your dream school says no, advises Karen Campbell, TCC associate vice president for recruitment, admission and enrollment.

3. What kind of living situation is best?

Do you want to live at home, close to home, or far from home? Do you want to live in a dorm or off campus?

While some students can’t wait to live on their own, others prefer easing into adulthood and remaining near family and friends. And if cost is an issue, splurging on dorm life now may mean moving back in with your parents after you graduate.

4. Do you prefer a small, medium or large school?

Student populations on U.S. campuses can range somewhere between 200 and 50,000 students. Community colleges, too, vary in size; TCC’s campuses are large and small, urban and suburban.

5. What do you want out of college life?

Do you want a school with a lively social life, big football games, and lots of traditions? Do you want a school that is quiet, serious and intellectual? Are extracurricular activities or sororities and fraternities important?

Remember, these are not completely exclusive. But a large university is more likely to offer up big football games and Greek life than a small liberal arts college.

Community colleges, too, have their own identities. For example, though TCC has no dorms, it does have dining facilities, recreation facilities and plenty of extracurriculars. In fact, some students say TCC gives them the four-year college experience without the four-year college price tag.

By completing the first two years of required courses at a community college and transferring to a university to complete your bachelors you can save thousands and avoid crippling student loan debt.

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