Invest Wisely: Four Higher Education Lessons Learned from Buying a HouseCraig Maslowsky | Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management, Antioch University
Investing in an education may just be the greatest financial investment of a person’s life. Depending on where you live, it could be similar to buying a home in terms of cost.
In fact, there are many similarities between these two investments and all that goes into the selection process. Both may very well change the course of your life and both are inherently personal and emotional decisions that should be considered very carefully before moving ahead.
1. Trust Me, I’m an Expert
Your realtor and your admissions counselor should be working for you, not their employer, right from the start. The first thing they should do is ask the right questions to get to know you and your needs so they can provide options that make sense for you as an individual. Being told by a realtor that you should love a house because the features are “what everyone is looking for right now” is similar to an admissions counselor promoting certain programs because “this degree will get you the best job” before they even know what you plan to do with the degree. There is no right answer; it’s about the buyer and what best aligns with his or her priorities.
2. Location, Location, Location
Selecting a college with the right reputation is similar to buying a house in the right neighborhood. The location of a home can be perfect for one resident and inconvenient for another. Living in the city is great if you work there, but if you have to drive an hour to the suburbs each day to go to work, well, you get the point. A college may provide the best engineering education money can buy, but if you are interested in philosophy, then so what? Another example is if a gorgeous home is in the middle of a high-crime area, you’ll have trouble finding a buyer in the future, in the same way an employer might not want to hire someone with a degree from an institution known for accreditation issues.
3. “All the Best Features” You’ll Never Use
While buying a house with a four-car garage could be perfect for some, the person who rides a bicycle to work each day would have little use for it. The same is true for your college. That state-of-the-art dormitory and fitness center at the college you attend in the evening after work might be incredible, but these features aren’t of much use to you. Consider the array of services offered by institutions with special attention to those you will actually use. Your college of choice should be one that invests in what matters to you. Besides, your tuition is paying for it.
4. Turning a House into a Home
A house becomes a home through the experiences and memories we attach to it over time. A college is simply a place and a course is structured information. Your education depends on what you do within the place and how you insert yourself into the conversations in the course. A home is the same way. You can stay in a home, or you can live in a home. We welcome people, laughter and love into a house to make it a home. We allow curiosity, criticism and exploration into our college experience to make it unique to us, and valuable.
Author Perspective: Administrator
I echo Maslowsky’s point that you truly get out what you’re willing to put into your education. I was a non-traditional student who picked an institution without really researching my options (or knowing what I should be looking for in the first place). As a result, upon starting a two-year certificate program, I realized I didn’t like the school’s style of teaching, their elective offerings or the campus layout (a minor detail, perhaps, but a major source of chagrin for me). For a number of reasons, I wasn’t able to transfer. I got by that first year by “sucking it up,” as they say, and telling myself I would soon be done and out of there.
However, by the time my second year rolled around, my attitude had changed. I realized if I was going to make it through a second year and finish my program, I needed to see the positives of the institution. I also joined the school choir and, no, this wasn’t something to put on my resume like a student council position would be, but it kept me emotionally balanced and helped me meet new people. I also got permission to take an elective at another institution and transfer the credit over. In the end, though I didn’t feel the school I chose was the best for me, I still managed to have a positive experience.
Great advice about “location, location, location.” Many adult students rely on an institution’s reputation as a proxy for its quality, but choosing an institution based on the particular program they are interested in is important. Maslowsky is right in saying that an institution known for its engineering program won’t help a student interested in philosophy. Prospective adult students need more resources to help them make better informed decisions.
I have to agree with Anthony’s comment about adult students needing to make informed decisions. I started looking for the right graduate school in April the year before I was set to graduate from my bachelor’s degree. I took an introduction class at one potential school, webinars for potential students at another, and gathered more information that I knew what to do with at the time. The important thing was that starting that early gave me time to do all of this and really decide what the appropriate program and fit of the school was going to be before I applied anywhere. Now, I’m about 5 weeks away from the end of my first quarter and am loving my program. It will give me the end result, which is licensure, and is allowing me to learn so much. I find myself looking toward getting comments at the end of each week on discussions and papers because I see myself improving as a student and an individual. That is what is important to me. Learning my craft and making myself a better person with tons of people on my side to support me. I get that at my institution.