Private Schools: Are They Right for You?
When one thinks of private schools, images of strict instructors, school uniforms and high tuition often come to mind. However, in recent years, private colleges in particular have gained a lot of popularity with students and their families. Because this path towards obtaining a degree is a more expensive one, it is helpful for students to know the advantages and disadvantages of applying to private schools. Basing the final decision on cost alone barely scratches the surface of what such schools have to offer its students.
Quick Definition of Private Schools
Before diving into the nitty gritty of the pros and cons, it is ideal for students to understand the difference between a private college and a traditional, public one. The most straightforward definition is that private schools are not supported by the government financially like public colleges are. These educational institutions rely heavily on the tuition and money given by donors, which are known as endowments.
Advantages of Private Schools
Smaller Class Size
While traditional college courses often have hundreds of students in stadium seating being instructed by one professor, private schools have the ability to provide its students with smaller class sizes. This allows for a more intimate and hands-on learning experience, which also gives students the opportunity to receive additional one-on-one assistance from their instructors if needed. A typical class at a private college can be as small 10 to 12 students. The average public college usually holds 30 students minimum.
Private schools employ some of the most top notch professors to instruct its students. Thoroughly knowledgeable in their respective areas of expertise, having access to these types of instructors enhances the learning experience for students. From long track records in their professions to receiving prestigious awards and recognition for various accomplishments, some private colleges even have Nobel Laureates as part of their faculty. Since these schools offer great benefits, tenure and star treatment for its professors, this encourages instructors to remain loyal to their institution and continue contributing their talents and efforts for the long term.
Stronger Sense of Community
Being one in a sea of student faces on a large, public campus can make it difficult for some individuals to feel a real sense of belonging at their school. Because private schools have such a stringent application process, this results in a smaller student body overall, which gives students a better shot at getting to know their peers. Additionally, being on a smaller campus makes it easier to explore the community and become involved in its activities and atmosphere.
Higher Academic Standards
The high cost of private schools for tuition isn’t just by accident. Paying the price for attending a private college guarantees that each student receives the highest standard of academic excellence. Students have access to the best programs, facilities, instructors and other resources—all for the purpose of helping to bring them closer to obtaining their degrees and pursuing their career goals.
Disadvantages of Private Schools
The cost of tuition at private schools typically ranks #1 on anyone’s list of disadvantages. While the only way to calculate the exact cost is by researching each individual institution, studies have shown that the average cost a student can expect to spend per year in tuition and fees at a four-year private school hovers around $27,293. The average cost for attending a four-year public college or university is estimated to be approximately $7,605.
Because private colleges are committed to academic excellence, they expect a great deal from their students in return. The workload a typical private school student carries tends to be heavy and filled with a combination of coursework and extracurricular activities. Due to the demands in the classroom, it can be difficult to add in a social life or hold down a part-time job. Even those with the ability to pull such a balancing act off will still find it a challenging obstacle.
Difficulty with Transferring Credits
Just as no two public colleges are the same, neither are private schools. These educational institutions call their own shots and the rules and regulations tend to differ greatly from public universities. In the event that a student feels the private school they’ve chosen isn’t a good fit, they may be faced with earned credits that will not transfer over to a new school. This type of situation could delay a student’s transfer process or might even require him/her to take those courses all over again at their new school. To avoid such an inconvenience, it is vital that students make sure they are confident in the private institution they’ve chosen and will commit to staying there for the duration of their college career—or keep it simple and opt for a public college.
Are Private Schools For You?
Based on the above list of advantages and disadvantages, ultimately the final decision lays with each student and his/her family. Make a list of preferred schools and arrange campus tours for each one. Only by seeing the school with your own eyes and interacting with the faculty and student body can a person truly envision whether such a particular educational institution would be a good fit. Remember, private colleges tend to have smaller student bodies, which means there may not be as much diversity, compared to public colleges and universities. Students that prefer to be surrounded by people from all walks of life and backgrounds might feel a bit uncomfortable in such a homogeneous environment.
It is also ideal to crunch the numbers and figure out whether or not attending a private college would be a manageable cost for you and your family. It is important to know that when it comes to private schools, students have plenty of financial aid options available to them. If a specific private college is interested in a particular student, they will work with the student’s family to seek out financial incentives to ensure the final cost is as affordable as possible. This is done mainly through applying for merit scholarships and grants.