(BPT) - Choosing a college is no easy task. Considering it's a decision that will lay the groundwork for your career and that college is one of the biggest financial investments you'll ever make, most students and parents too are aware that it's not a decision to be taken lightly.
While it's important to ask a lot of questions about the schools you're considering, some of the most important questions you need to ask before choosing a school should be directed at yourself. Figuring out your own learning style and picking a school that plays to those strengths is one of the biggest keys to your educational success.
John Keim, Provost and Chief Academic Officer for Westwood College School of Technology shares four questions students should answer before choosing a school:
Do you do well in a lecture setting or are you more of a hands-on learner?
Once you answer this question, determine which style of learning is used most at the colleges you are considering. For example, a large liberal arts university might feature a class schedule heavy in lectures, where a career-focused tech school might focus mainly on hands-on learning in a classroom setting.
Do you favor abstract thinking or do you like to solve problems in a more direct and less theoretical manner?
If you enjoy creative writing and topics likes political science, religion or history where there tends to be more than one way to answer a question and analysis is a little more subjective, you're more of an abstract learner. If you enjoy math or computer programming, where there are right and wrong ways to solve a problem, you prefer a more empirical and pragmatic method of learning. Determining what works best for you will help you both pick a college and area of study.
Would you consider yourself a non-traditional learner?
If you've found success in classes that wouldn't be considered traditional, such as projects-based classes as opposed to traditional lecture-based classes, you may do well to find a college that offers classes that cater to students with non-traditional needs. If you've already tried a traditional college and didn't like it or weren't successful, you may have just needed a curriculum that better fit your learning style and schools that cater to non-traditional students can help.
Do you already know what type of career you would like to pursue?
If you do, you may want to consider a career-focused college that will give you the specific training to succeed in your chosen career. If you're undecided or have multiple interests, a liberal arts education might be more appropriate. For example if you know you want to be a computer programmer and have no interest in a managerial role, you might consider a school that focuses specifically on building your technical skills to help you in that specific role.
For example, Keim says, “Many students in technology-focused programs do well in classes that teach specific technology skills that prepare them to transition easily into their first jobs after college. These students also benefit from hands-on projects-based training designed by professionals who have worked in field that students will eventually be working in."
By thinking a little bit about what makes you succeed as a student, you can best determine both where your interests lie and what kind of education is best for you. By determining this before you enroll in a school, you'll help increase the odds that your educational dollar is put to good use.