You are looking at colleges, but how do you know which one will give you the greatest return on investment (ROI)? Here are my three tips to look for in a school to assure you the greatest ROI!
Tip #1: Choose a College Based on Your Career Ambitions
Being set on a career could narrow your choices. Some professions, such as architecture, meteorologist, or engineer require specific degrees, credentials, and training. Therefore, if your heart is set on being an engineer, for example, then you should probably go to a school that has an engineering program.
Don’t have a career in mind or have a lot of different interests? You’re not alone! A majority of students end up changing their major in college – some up to three or four times. If you have a lot of different interests, look for a school with a wide variety of options for majors and has resources for undecided (sometimes called “exploratory”) students.
Resource: Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is a great resource to research different careers and what degree those professionals in that field typically have.
Tip #2: Look at Graduation Rate
When schools refer to their “graduation rate” they are referring to 150% the time it typically takes a first time, freshman to complete the degree. Therefore, for a 4-year institution that would be the 6-year graduation rate. For a 2-year institution that would be the 3-year graduation rate. Unless a 4-year university explicitly says they are talking about the 4-year graduation rate, assume they are referring to the 6-year. This is an important consideration when thinking about overall cost. For example, if an institution has a 25% graduation rate it is safe to assume that roughly 3 out of every 4 students who start freshman year at that institution do not end up finishing for one reason or another.
Resource: College Scorecard, put out by the U.S. Department of Education, does an excellent job of comparing schools by the graduate rate, cost of attendance, and median salary.
Tip #3: Check Out the Career Resources
There are three key things to look out for when you are researching a school’s career resources:
What events are hosted such as resume writing workshops, getting into graduate school seminars, career fair preparation, etc?
How many job fairs is the career center hosting each semester or year? What companies were recruiting from that school last year? Are there industry-specific job fairs? If there are industry-specific job fairs that probably means the school is known for producing well-qualified students in that field.
First Destination Survey/Graduate Outcome Survey
Most career offices will also publish a first destination survey, where school officials ask graduates up to six months after graduation what job they hold, if the job is full or part-time, and what salary they earn among other things. Keep in mind that this is usually a voluntary survey. Therefore, not every student will be accounted for. Even so, this can be a wealth of information regarding job placement rates overall and in specific majors.
Do you have tips for what to look out for regarding ROI for college? Let me know in the comments below!