Pros and Cons of Attending a Private College as an Undergraduate StudentDecember 14, 2020
Graduating from high school and planning your next step in life is an exciting time! If college is in your future, then you may have decisions coming up that can feel overwhelming. One of the first options you’ll face is deciding between a private vs public college. This decision is a personal one, and it’s important to make an informed decision about what best fits your needs.
When looking at different schools, you will notice that some are listed as colleges and others as universities. Both can be public or private. Usually, if a school has “college” in the name, it denotes it is a smaller school, while “universities” are typically larger institutions. If you are trying to decide if a private school is a good fit for you, here are a few pros and cons to consider:
Pros of Attending a Private College as an Undergraduate Student
A private college or university is most likely smaller than a public university, with a tight-knit community. A large private college may have a student body of more than 15,000 vs a large public university with more than 30,000 students.
A smaller community of students will mean a better chance for networking. It’s also more likely that students and professors will be more involved in classes and extracurriculars in a smaller community. A high level of involvement can make it easier to engage with the community.
Private universities and colleges are known for their rigorous academic standards and curriculum. There will be a strong emphasis on learning the material and possibly less time for anything outside of school. High academic achievement will be expected, so if you are a conscientious student, a private college may be right for you.
Small Class Sizes
Since private colleges are often smaller than public universities, there may be smaller class sizes and more interaction with professors. At a public university, you may be one student in a class of several hundred. This would work well if you like working more independently.
With fewer students, it may be easier to stand out at a private school. Smaller classes will allow you to connect with the professors as mentors and to be more involved. If you like more interaction with professors and students, then a private college could be a better fit.
More Financial Aid
A private college or university is more likely to offer financial aid than a public school. A public college or university may offer scholarships, but it’s often harder to obtain one due to more competition. Public universities are also more likely to offer work-study positions as financial aid. If you have a high GPA and strong test scores, you may be able to receive financial aid offers from both private and public colleges. The amount offered by private colleges may, however, be higher.
Cons of Attending a Private College as an Undergraduate Student
You may also want to consider these drawbacks of attending a private college:
The cost of attending a private college is often higher than a public university. The average cost of private college for the 2020-2021 school year is $35,087, compared to $9,687 for a public university. However, don’t let the cost deter you.
Remember, private schools have the ability to offer more scholarships and grants. That means the cost you will be paying could be much lower than the total tuition cost. If a private college is high on your list of dream schools, do not let the cost alone steer you away from attending. Tip: Private student loans can help cover the cost of tuition and fees if any financial aid you receive is not enough.
Harder to Transfer
If you begin your academic career at a private college and then decide it is not the right fit for you, you may find it harder to transfer credits to another school, especially to a public university. Your credits may not align with other schools’ crediting standards, meaning you could lose them if you transfer. Losing credits may require you to pay for additional courses at your new school.
Fewer Activities and Majors
Private colleges sometimes offer a smaller number of majors and extracurricular activities than public universities. If your chosen private college offers your major, then this will not be a problem for you.
However, if you are undecided on a major and want to explore different programs, a public university may be a better fit. Just like there may be fewer majors at private schools, there may also be fewer extracurricular clubs. If you have particular interests, then be sure to keep that in mind.
Less Well Known
Some private colleges may not offer the same level of name recognition as larger public universities. Depending on your field, that could affect your future job searches and networking options. This is not true for all private colleges, however. Private Ivy League schools, for example, offer significant prestige and name recognition.
Whether you choose a private college or public, the experience you have will depend on the effort you put in. Focus on what you would like to achieve during college and find a school that is a good fit. Congratulations on graduation and beginning your next chapter!