Choosing a College or University

Nontraditional StudentResearch colleges before you step right in. Universities can be a strange place, despite what the college admissions’ clerk tells you over the phone.

Narrow your results to at least three choices and kick the tires. Look under the hood. Interview the school. A college is a business, so don’t fall privy to the four-color-process marketing brochure. You know the one with the sun-beamy students resting on the freshly mowed lawn? Caveat emptor, ye sovereign thou. The photographer may have sweetened the deal with headshots on the side, so ask the students, in person, how they feel about going to college there. Most of them won’t be shy in their responses. They’ll sing like shiny superstars on American Idol.

Students age 30 and over will make up nearly one-fourth of all college students by 2010.

* Source: Table 172: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Higher Education General Information Survey (HEGIS).

If you live in an urban area, you’re in good hands. And not with Allstate. Most cities have city colleges (or community colleges), which means lower tuition and an easier commute. A dorm-room situation is probably not going to work for most of you, unless you can haul the kids too.

Just because a college has “city” or “state” in the name doesn’t mean it is a city or state run college or university. You can also choose a private school. Perhaps your friends or family members are alumni. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to join the exclusive football team to become a cheerleader or linebacker. Perhaps the university is three blocks away from your home. Whatever your reasons, watch out for your class credits if you transfer from a two year college, to a four year college. Some of your transfer credits may end up in the trash bin because the courses don’t exist at the transfer college, or the classes don’t equal to the current class’s curriculum. Plus, if your grades aren’t what they used to be, a parent college is more forgiving with a “D” grade to their current students than they are to transfer students.

A maximum number of credits are transferable too. Coming from a two-year college, most four-year schools will only accept about 60 credits. That’s equivalent to two years of schooling. If your parent college is a four-year institution, they may accept more, but you’d still have to take a minimum number of credits at the transfer college to graduate, somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 credits. This will take a lot of fore planning, as in knowing which college you want to go to and getting someone on the phone to ask about those transfer credits. Sticking to one college is better than shifting to another one later.

Also, make sure the college or university is accredited. Accreditation gives the school certification–making sure they are up to standards–with courses that are nationally recognized and mostly accepted. These schools are regularly scrutinized for quality control, so don’t be shy to ask the school if you’re not sure.

Course Placement for Adult Students

Failing all or part of college entrance exams will score you for remedial courses at some schools and some schools might not accept you because they don’t offer remedial courses. Don’t frat because it’s not unusual to have to start at the bottom. In fact, according to College Board, 77 percent of students take math as a remedial course, with writing trailing at 35 percent. These classes fill up fast, not to mention it’s where the entire freshman class hangs out. Think of these as “refresh-man” courses if you find yourself in this situation. (Go here for the basics of math and writing).


Some colleges have G.E.D. classes if you don’t have a high school diploma. You can even take some college courses while you’re going over the rudiments of high school history and science. I don’t think they’ll have you dissecting toads, but I’d surely look into it if you have a reptilian phobia.


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