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When pulling together a list of schools, to apply to one of the biggest questions students ask themselves is if they should apply to state schools or private schools. Of course, there are a ton of pros and cons that need to be considered. As a disclaimer, a lot of the research on state schools is from one other TP college staff member and myself, as much of the TP staff does go to private schools.

State Schools

There are many positives to attending a state school here are just a few of them:

1. Less expensive in-state: If you go to a school in the state you live in, in-state tuition is really cheap. It can be a fraction of the amount of yearly tuition you would pay at a private school.

2. More students: Depending on how you look at it, this is definitely a positive. I consider it a positive because I have a lot of opportunities to meet so many people. Sarah Wizniak, a college vlogger, said that at state schools, “There are many different places where I can find my niche because there are so many people with so many different interests.”

3. More student organizations: Obviously if there are more people with more interests, students will make more organizations. State schools tend to have all sorts of organizations from tons of Greek Life to a plethora of different major-related or student life clubs.

4. More majors: State schools have the awesome ability of being able to employ many different professors and in turn being able to offer way more major choices.

5. In-state scholarships: If you go to a school in your state, chances are you will be able to find all sorts of home state-specific scholarships to use. Depending on your situation, you could also use those with private schools. In my home state, we have the Arkansas Lottery Academic Challenge Scholarship which helps tons of students in Arkansas be able to afford school whether they attend a state school or a private school in the state.

6. State schools are everywhere: There a ton of different forms of state schools to choose from no matter where you live. In my state, we have University of Arkansas, which has locations in many different parts of the state, Arkansas State University, which also has a ton of locations, and the University of Central Arkansas, which is kind of on its own.

While there are many positives to going to state schools, there are also some negatives:

1. Less well-known: Your state school diploma is sometimes really only great in your state. Sure, you have some well-known programs in your state school, but for the most part, if you travel the country, your diploma might not be as noticeable.

2. Less financial aid: While tuition and room and board are considerably cheaper at state schools, these colleges also offer less financial aid than most private schools. At private institutions, it is easy to get many different scholarships and grants, but it’s harder to get those things at a public school.

3. Out-of-state tuition: Out-of-state tuition makes it pretty difficult to move around to other state schools without paying an arm and a leg to attend.

4. Easy to get lost in translation: In order to make it in a public college, you have to be a go-getter. You have to seek because it’s harder to get sought. There can be way more people in your class than there are on your wing of your residence hall, so you have to speak up a ton more to get noticed in state schools.

Private Schools

Positives:

1. Diversity: Mollie Yacano, a college writer for TP, wrote, “Some pros of my school are definitely the amount of diversity in the people who are going there, since there isn’t in-state incentives, there are a lot of people from all over the country and world.”

2. Better financial aid: While state schools may be cheaper, the amount of financial aid given out at a private school is much larger.

3. Same tuition for everyone: The great thing about private schools is the price that you see is the price that you get. With state schools, your tuition depends on where you live when you are not in school, so you could pay a cheap rate, but it could go up in the end. Private schools have the same sticker price for everyone.

4. More major-oriented: While state schools have a ton of majors to choose from, private schools are more major-oriented. They don’t have nearly as many majors to get teachers for, so they try to make the majors they do have really well known and great.

5. Better graduation rates: Private schools consistently ranked pretty high on this list of the Highest 4 year graduation rates by US News and World Report. Obviously, it is important to note that you will have a better graduation rate chance at a private school, but this also depends on the person you are.

6. More handholding: TP college writer Lili Borland wrote, “There’s much more handholding at a private university,” which seems to be true when Joanna Flores another college writer wrote that, “[Private schools have] much more extensive advising. Going into freshman year, I have a freshman adviser, pre-health program adviser(s), Res Life adviser, and those are just the ones I know of so far.”

Now on to some of the negatives associated with private schools:

1. Fewer people: While you may have a diverse school population, you are in turn not going to have a lot of students. Jasmine Russell, a TP college writer, stated that this may feel restricting or boring after a while, depending on the person.

  • 2. Expensive: Despite the mountains of financial aid, private schools still come with a huge sticker price. Eric Po, a TP college writer, said that at private schools, “Although financial aid and scholarships can help reduce the cost, sometimes private schools just end up costing more than state schools.”

4. Transferring credits: Because of how different private schools can be from state schools, transferring credits can be a crazy ordeal. In a Scholarships.com article titled The Pros and Cons of Private Colleges, it said that, “Private universities each have different crediting methods. If the university that you choose doesn’t work for you it may be difficult to transfer and retain all the credits you have earned.”

5. Schedule demands: The above Scholarships.com article also touched on the demanding schedules that private colleges have by saying that, “The heavy workload makes it difficult to balance extracurricular activities, a job, and a social life at a private college. It’s a good idea to identify your priorities before setting out to attend a school that cost $30k a year. Your parents will appreciate your consideration and you will avoid unnecessary conflicts.” This is important to note if balancing things is important to you. If you want a job and then want to get involved in five student organizations, you may want to think about the balancing act that comes along with a more rigorous class schedule. If the thought of that makes you giddy, I worship at your feet.

6. Less flexible scheduling: Because the main concern of private colleges are mainly full time students it’s hard to find flexible scheduling at private colleges. You may be able to get into a class but not at the time you’d prefer. State schools have a broader range of people to cater to so you find night classes, weekend classes, and a ton more online classes at state schools.

Before I move on to the close of this article I thought I would address some key points about private and state schools. First, not all private and public colleges are made the same. Sure, there are some public colleges that have 25,000+ people on their campus, but there are also ones with less than 12,000. There are some well-known private colleges out there, but there are also ones that come with a heavy sticker price and won’t get you the same recognition.

Also there are many similarities to private and state colleges. No matter what school you attend, your professors will still be great. Second, the opportunities are still great. You will have chances for study abroad, internships, and research at both schools. You may have to search them out more or pay for more of it at one school over the other, but the opportunities are still there and you just have to take them.

Lastly, after researching and talking with so many of our college writers and interns about the experiences in high school with recruitment, it seems that private colleges and public colleges recruit at pretty much the same rate.

I hope I was able to open your eyes a bit with this article on the key issue of deciding which college may be a better fit for you. There are a ton of other factors that I wasn’t even able to touch on in this article and believe me the debate between private and public colleges goes a lot deeper than this. I encourage you to take a minute to research all your college options when it comes to this, because after all your college isn’t just a place to get your degree, it’s a place to call home.

For further reading on the positives and negatives of private and state schools check out these pros and cons list on Scholarships.com for private schools and state schools. I feel that they are a great resource.

Thank you to all the college writers and interns that helped me produce this article. I truly do appreciate your information even if I didn’t quote you in the article. You’re information was extremely helpful to me.



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the author

Amanda Cross is a Junior at the University of Central Arkansas where she studies Sociology with a minor in Public Relations. Amanda is the Housing Chair for the Alpha Omicron chapter of Sigma Sigma Sigma and a UCA Ambassador on her campus. When Amanda is not at school you can usually find her blogging, reading, hanging out with friends/family, or sleeping. Amanda writes her own blog titled College is Love, and she also writes for UChic and The Smart Girls Group Loop.

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