Junior year of high school is when students need to start focusing on where they want to go to college and what they want to study. Creating a balanced college list will help you look at all the factors impacting your decisions and put together your top choices based on those factors.

First, consider what areas you want to study based on the career field you want to join. While some universities are enormous and offer a broad spectrum of degree programs, most colleges and universities specialize in specific areas. Some of their programs are more developed and well-known than others. For example, a state university may be renowned for its engineering program, but not its graphic design program. Based on the career field you want to enter into, make a list of colleges that have the degrees that interest you. You can research them online and request additional information directly from the schools.

From the list of colleges with the right degree program, look at other considerations, including where they are located, what their admission standards are, and what the school community is like. For example, while going far away to college may not seem like a disadvantage, you need to understand that the farther you go, the harder it will be to visit home or receive familial help when you need something. You also want to look at the school community: Is it securely contained within a campus, or is it a city college? Do you have a preference?

In considering these other factors, it is important to also look at online schools. Online schools offer the unique advantage that you don’t need to consider the type of campus, personal safety, travel distance, or remote cost of living. You can live where you are, continue to work, be around the people and places you are accustom to while still going to college full or part-time. Online schools allow you to work around your current schedule.

For example, Excelsior College, located in New York, exclusively offers distance learning programs. This school has tailored its programs to fit the needs of adult students who are carrying work and personal schedules. Courses start every eight weeks, so those interested in starting their degree do not have to wait for a new semester to start.

To cater to a wide range of students, Excelsior College has interest-free payment plans for tuition. It offers a reduced tuition rate for active-duty military and their immediate family members. Undergraduate classes range from $380 to $520 per credit hour, and graduate classes cost $645 per credit hour. Additionally, Excelsior College works to provide a broad range of degree programs. The school currently offers eight associate’s degree programs, 22 bachelor degree programs, nine master’s degree programs, and two certification programs.

Finally, look at the cost of each college on your list. When considering cost, remember to look at the cost of living, travel, moving, food, books, and fees. Often, high school students only look at tuition, which is only one fo the expenses you will face. With all of the research you have conducted, you can create a balanced college list that contains the schools that you can afford, offer the program you are looking for, and fit your other personal criteria.

With your balanced list, you can start the application process for each school. Applying to multiple colleges will provide you with numerous options when the time comes to choose where you will be attending. Additionally, when applying for independent scholarship money, you can give a shortlist of where you will likely be attending.

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