PHIL BONFANTI: College decision comes down to three factors

By Phil Bonfanti

When visiting with high school students and parents, I often tell them we are fortunate to live in a country with more than 4,000 colleges and universities: fortunate not only because they come in all shapes and sizes, but because a student can receive an excellent education at almost all of them.
With that in mind, then, the college decision can be daunting, yet often it comes down to three important factors.
One, does the college or university offer the major the student wants to study? As a comprehensive research institution, Mississippi State can prepare students for just about any career they can imagine from architects and engineers to teachers, doctors and lawyers. MSU also offers a number of specialized programs, such as professional golf management and broadcast meteorology.
A second important factor is the cost of attending the college or university. As a university administrator and the parent of a college student, I am very mindful of the rising cost of obtaining a college education. Fortunately, there are a number of federal, state and institutional programs designed to assist families in getting financial assistance, from Pell Grants and subsidized student loans to the Mississippi Tuition Assistance Grant and the Mississippi State University Promise Program.
On Saturday, Mississippi State will launch a College Cost Estimator that will assist parents and students in calculating the cost of attending our university. On that same date, we will also launch a new campus 360 tour that will allow students and parents to take a virtual tour of our campus, getting 360 views of classrooms, residence halls and even the president’s office.
A virtual tour, however, is no substitute for an actual visit, which brings me to the third important factor in making a college choice: the college experience.
Attending a university is more than just getting an education; it is a four- (maybe five) year experience. And while a student will get a good education at most any university in the country, he or she will get a different experience at almost all. The best way to get a feel for the culture of a university is to make a campus visit. Most universities offer a number of ways to visit campus.
At Mississippi State, we offer everything from large exciting events, such as our Fall Preview Days; to smaller group tours, such as our Bulldog for A Day events; to individual campus tours. I encourage all parents and students planning to attend college to take advantage of these opportunities and to visit more than one campus.
A visit will not only assist you in making your college decision, but also will add fun and excitement to the process.
Phil Bonfanti is director of admissions and scholarships at Mississippi State University.