How to Choose Between Public or Private College

Which college is right for you?

Choosing which college to attend is perhaps the most daunting decision for any young person. Not only are you choosing a college to live and study at, you are also making a decision where to live and a culture you will become a part of. There are numerous factors in choosing a college. How important is location to you? The architecture? How academics? The extracurricular opportunities? How are you planning to pay for it all, and what college loans are available? All of these considerations need to be balanced, and this a lot to take on. Here are a few considerations to take into account when tackling this important question. Of course, this is only a guide, and you should do your utmost best to visit each college you are interested in. After all, a prospectus can only tell you so much!

Courses of study

Perhaps the most important consideration is what courses of study are available and what is interesting to you. As a rule of thumb, private colleges offer more specialist, targeted courses. These are often good for going into a career or field of work you already have in mind. Public colleges, on the other hand, usually offer a much wider range of courses to study. A private college is likely to have fewer choices for students, but this often means a lower student-teacher ratio and more one-on-one attention for the specialist fields. This is contrasted with a public college, where there will be more options and more students. This will affect the social life of the colleges too, as public colleges often have a much larger student population and more opportunity for socializing.


Academics are often thought of as the most important consideration, but is not number one in this article for a reason – what you study is more important than the prestige of the school. In the field of academics, private colleges are known for having higher and rigorous entry requirements and acceptance standards. As well as high admission standards, private college expect you to maintain these high grades throughout your time there. Public colleges also expect and maintain high standards, just not to the same extent and private colleges. Keep this in mind, as you may just have a few things going on in college that make studying less of a priority than it is during high school.

Campus size and culture

How big the campus and student population usually differs between private and public colleges. In general public colleges will be much larger and are often more rowdy, with a more diverse population. Private colleges pride themselves on exclusivity and have a smaller student population and may not be very diverse in comparison. Your own personal preference is important here. Do you want a large student population and lots of spirit mixing of people, or a calmer more intimate environment for your college experience?

Funding your studies

An important factor to consider is how you intend to fund your time at college and will usually involve college loans. College is one of the biggest financial investments in a person’s life, and there are some key differences here between loans for private college loans and public college loans. In general, public colleges are funded by the state the college is in and federal programs, meaning students are less likely to need college loans to fund their college experience. Private colleges on the other hand are funded by tuition paid by students and private donations, meaning private school is the more expensive option and may require you to take out a loan. Both public and private colleges will have some scholarships and other ways to help pay your way, but private college is usually the more expensive option.


What activities are you interested in outside of the classroom? Public colleges have a larger and more diverse population and so offer a wider range of activities for everyone to join in on. Private colleges on the other hand the population is less diverse and may have fewer options. However, as the college has more control over its money there may be very specialist activities unavailable at public colleges. Be sure to think about what you want to do in the evenings after class when choosing your college.

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