What would you do in this situation? (school options)

Next month I will have to start filling out applications for my next college, for admission in the spring 2012 semester. I know which colleges I will be applying to (UConn, UMASS-Amherst, Worcester State, Framingham State).

Going on the assumption that I get accepted to all 4 I have no clue which one I would choose and I wont have long to decide. My boyfriend is no help. He never applied to more than one college at a time.

Here are the pros and cons by college:


Pros: Closest to my house for commuting (about 40 minutes each way). Has the specific major that I want.

Cons: Very expensive. Even with the New England Regional discount, the cost of tuition and books would still run me over $20k per year.


Pros: About half the cost of UConn. Doesn’t have the specific major I want but has more options than just plain Biology.

Cons: A lot farther away. Assuming perfect traffic conditions the commute would be a minimum of 75 minutes each way.

Framingham State

Pros: Even less expensive than UMASS.

Cons: About the same commute as UMASS, possibly even longer because of the direction I’d have to go. Not many choices for a major I want, would probably just be Biology.

Worcester State

Pros: Same cost as Framingham State. Second closest to me with a commute of about 50 minutes assuming perfect driving conditions.

Cons: I detest this school. I dropped out 14 years ago and have no desire to go back. Have been told by 2 Biology major graduates and 1 Biology professor that the Biology department sucks the big one.

If I go to UConn I might be able to get enough aid to cover tuition and books and the commute will be manageable. But when I get out I’ll have a shitload of student loans to deal with.

If I go to UMASS or Framingham State I will certainly be able to get financing and I’ll be able to get a degree that will put me on the right track for a career and grad school and I’ll probably leave with little to no debt. But the cost of gas and wear and tear on the 22 year old vehicle, not to mention the 3 hours in the Jeep every day is a major turn-off.

Worcester State is a total last choice, nothing else worked for me, I hate my school, lets just get it done and go on to grad school. I really don’t want to go there.
The final option, which might actually be less appealing than going to Worcester State is living on campus in Amherst or Framingham. I will be 32 years old when I transfer. I spent 6 years living in foster care. I have no interest in living in a dorm. I have done my time in hell and I’d prefer to not go back voluntarily. I also have a very nice home with an awesome boyfriend and 3 amazingly cute dogs. I don’t want to spend $10k per year to live in a tiny box with a maladjusted 18 year old.

So, assuming you were in my situation and you got accepted to all 4 schools, which would you choose and why?


You DO NOT WANT to graduate up to your ears in student loan debt.

Do everything in your power to avoid student loans. If it’s loans vs. not graduating - take out loans, but not ONE penny more than you need to pay for school.

Student loans = bad.
Student loans = absolute LAST resort.
Student loans make bunny cry.
You need to seriously consider the cost of commuting vs. living in the dorm. If your car is 22 years old - you are probably courting disaster by driving it 3 hrs a day. What’s going to happen when your car dies on you mid-semester? What happens when gas goes up to over $4 a gallon again? You also need to consider that even if your car behaves, driving 3 hours a day is going to get old FAST - if you have class 5 days a week (which would suck) that’s 15 hours a week JUST driving.

Financially it may may more sense to live in the dorm.

Hear me out. If you live in the dorm, you don’t have to stay there EVERY night. You could go home weekends. You may be able to work your class schedule to where you only have classes 3 days a week. Also, a private room is an option - costs more, yes, but may make it easier on you. Plus if, God forbid, the car ends up dying on you, you’ll at least have somewhere on campus to stay while you get the transportation issue sorted out.

Just some thoughts. Good luck!!!

Amherest is the best bet for you.

I forgot to mention, living on campus in Framingham will have me paying about $15k per year for tuition, room, board, and fees. So, while it’s still less expensive, it’s no longer the nice $7k per year of commuting.

Oh and even half an hour in the jeep is too much some days. Leaf Springs. Blech.

Ok, let’s try this again. Apparently my ability to do basic math is on vacation just because the rest of me is.

UMASS without room and board is about $5k per year less than UConn.

UMASS with room and board is actually more than UConn.

Framingham without room and board is about $12k per year less than UConn.

Framingham with room and board is about $2k less than UConn.

Worcester State is about $12k per year less than UConn and wouldn’t need room and board because even if I needed to cut down on driving I could just sleep on my mom’s couch. But, honestly I’d rather have a lot of debt.

So, Framingham is still the least expensive because living on campus isn’t a huge difference but would reduce the wear and tear on the Jeep and the cost of gas. UMASS is only a better price if I do all the driving.

I don’t know why I thought UConn was so much more expensive. Apparently I can’t read either.

What are you going to school for? A general science (just “Biology”) or specific types of classes for a specific career? Do you know you will do grad school for an intended job, or is it just something you are assuming because “you need grad school to work in X field”/“it would be nice to go to grad school”?

At the undergraduate level, in most cases you will learn the same stuff no matter what school you go to (note that I don’t know any of the schools on your list). The differences, IME, largely come down to class sizes, research money put into things that undergrads don’t really see/deal with and opportunities for lab/summer positions which may or may not matter in the long run, depending on what you want to do with it and whether you can afford to sacrifice more money at an unrelated summer job in favour of gaining “experience” to drop onto your resumé. Personally, I didn’t care how big my classes were (everything from 8 to 1000 students), I didn’t get involved in any research/summer positions out of class time because I couldn’t afford the relative loss of income compared to waitressing for the summer (btw I have a degree in Biochemistry, and one in Mechanical Engineering, if that puts any of my comments into context).

The reason I’m asking is because if you are just looking for a general degree right now, go with what is least expensive - whether it’s the commute+car, high tuition or dorm+low tuition option. Consider your time and effort as a cost, though - I commuted to school for my first degree, it was about 50 minutes each way straight shot up a highway and I didn’t care at all. Considering I graduated from that 7+ years ago and have the same car now, it worked out ok!

If you want very specific topics for a very specific jobs (which you may not get enough of at any school) then go to the school that offers that. I don’t get that impression from your post, though.

You sound like you don’t want to drive, so that means either closest+more expensive or farther+dorm. Or perhaps see if you can afford another car…if the farther option is $7000 in tuition and the closer one is $20000, then that $13000 difference can maybe go to a car that you can manage to drive throughout the year.

You have a home and a live-in boyfriend (unless I am misunderstanding your post) - how much of that are you willing to give up/compromise on for your degree? Can you move? Do you each have a car, so you can move for a few years to a place midway between his job/school/whatever and a school that is further from home?

And call me cynical, but unless you are motivated to get a specific job and that’s why you are going to school (my reason for the Mech Eng degree - I want to do X, so I got the degree that people who do X have), then don’t make your decision on what to do for 4 years of undergrad on the possibility that you may to grad school. So many first year students say that, so few actually do it, and many that do, choose grad school because they don’t know what to do with their lives otherwise.

I’m not trying to make you doubt your decision to go back, though it might seem like that. I just want you to examine your reasons and perhaps see if that influences your decision. You aren’t like a lot of first-year students I met, who are studying something because their parents expect them to, but keep in mind that school is hard, it’s stressful and tiring, and you will often doubt yourself and want to give up (pretty much every semester before finals, IME!). You need to choose what fits your life best, but also what fits your goals best. I could never have done my second degree if I was doing it for fun. I needed to know that it would lead me where I want to go, and had to remind myself of it constantly.

As negative as I sound, now that I’ve graduated (just this summer) I don’t regret it one bit and in hindsight had an absolute blast! I hope you choose something that gives you satisfaction and makes your life better! Good luck!

I am going to college with very specific goals. I’m getting too old to go to college without knowing what I want to do with my life.

I am close to finishing my AA in Liberal Arts. My end goal is to be a forensic pathology assistant. I want to go to Quinnipiac for a Master of Pathology Assisting.

The program at UConn is Pathobiology. I have done a lot of research and this is the degree that interests me the most because of the specifics that differentiate it from a regular Biology degree.

But, I am smart enough to know that I could get into the grad school program with an English degree as long as I have enough good grades in Bio electives. I also know that I could tailor my electives to make a regular Bio degree more like a Pathobiology degree. So, my undergrad degree doesn’t really matter too much for grad school.

However, a Biology related degree will serve me best if I choose NOT to go to grad school (which is a possibility if I graduate and realize I really don’t want to continue in college 'til I’m 38).
So, I could major in Bio at Framingham or Microbiology at UMASS or Pathobiology at UConn. I just prefer what I have read about Pathobiology and it’s the closest school with the least likely chance of traffic problems on the commute. By the way, to clarify what I’m talking about:
“Pathobiology focus on animal health and diseases and their relationship to people and the environment.” (from the UConn website)

Please, don’t go to the school you detest. Are you serious?

Haven’t you really listed the schools in the order of preference anyway?

Yes, student loans can be hell. Apply for every scholarship that you can get. Go to a library and look up other grants and scholarships that are out there. Are there grants from scientifically based corporations? Try the Howard Hughes Research facility. I don’t know the name of it exactly, but they are loaded. Check everywhere on line.

I had a student loan that knocked off 10% of the debt for every year that I taught. There may be something similar available out there.

Ask a woman’s club for help or a large church.

I went to a really really good school. It is the number one school in its field in the country forty-six years later. Think about how you will feel about your education ten years – twenty, thirty or forty years from now. It makes a difference. And there is very much a difference among schools. Employers know that. Graduate schools know that.

If you don’t believe me, flip a coin. If it doesn’t come up UConn, will you be disappointed?

Move if you have to. Live on PB&J and mac and cheese. Find folks to drive with. Resolve to enjoy a simple lifestyle. Go have fun and love it!

I would love to hear what you decide.

I’m not really sure how things work in the States. If you go into a general Biology program, since you already have an AA, can you take 1-2 years of biology courses and get into grad school more or less immediately? Heck, can you get into grad school now and take a year of catch-up classes in addition to regular classes? Seriously, look into it… I know someone who did something similar in a Chem Eng grad program, simply adding a year to his Master’s to catch up in undergrad, but also being allowed to take grad courses and TA/research!

If you can shorten your undergrad time and skip up to grad school quickly, then I’d look into spending the least amount of money possible (as long as I can live with the commute, and I’d look at getting another car). Spend the $$$ on grad school.

If you have to do a full undergrad, then go with UConn. It’s the program you want, it’s tailored to the career and potential grad school you want and you sound like you can afford it.

If not, go to the next best one that you can afford. Get the course catalogues for each university (usually online, but I loves me the paperback versions!) and compare courses and curricula/allowed electives to the UConn program to see if you can build a program similar to what UConn has. If you can’t build a similar set of courses, then scratch that school off your list, regardless of cost.

You’re too old to go back if you don’t know what you want in life, but you’re also too old to put up with a program that won’t get you where you want to be.

I’ve sworn that I will never, ever, ever go back to school, but damn, I’m excited for you! I love the process of choosing courses and subjects to study! :slight_smile:

I didn’t put them in order of school preference. As far as school is concerned, my only preference is to not go to Worcester State. I would have to be pretty damn desperate. I only added it because it IS an option, just not a good one. The only school I have any kind of attachment to is the one I am currently attending. I practically grew up at this school and watched my mom graduate from it when I was 8. I also got to see her be inducted as part of the first Phi Theta Kappa group for the chapter I am now also a member of.

Basically, once I leave my current school, I’ll have no preformed loyalties to any upcoming school.

I put UConn first because of the degree, not the school. UMASS and Framingham are equal on degree appeal. I want Quinnipiac for grad school because my next closest option has me going either to the South or Canada.
Between thinking, talking to my boyfriend (he’s a very wise man) and reading comments here, I’ve narrowed it down and I’ve figured out my next steps to help me decide.

UMASS is out. The cost isn’t low enough to make it worth the commute and the cost of boarding is too much.

Worcester State is out, barring a catastrophe.

So, it’s between boarding at Framingham and commuting to UConn. The cost is very close but UConn is slightly more and has the commute costs added in. Additionally, Framingham is only about 20 minutes out of my boyfriend’s way to work so if there’s a problem with the Jeep after a weekend visit home, he can drop me off for the week without too much difficulty. I also get guaranteed admission to Framingham through MassTransfer and my community college GPA will get me a small (very small) reduction in cost.

What I need to find out now is what the difference in education quality is. I know that if I call Framingham, they’ll tell me they have an excellent Biology program that will get me into any grad school or profession. Of course they will. They’re not going to tell me that UConn is better.

I don’t know how to really compare them. I think that I’m getting an excellent education at my community college but many people and schools seem to think that community college is a joke. So, who do I ask about comparing Framingham and UConn?

I’m tempted to call admissions at Quinnipiac to ask this question:

You have two applicants. Same age, sex, and nationality. One majored in Pathobiology at UConn while the other majored in Bio at Framingham but tailored the degree to be comparable to the Patho degree. They have the exact same GPA and the exact same extracurricular activities.

You can only take one. Which one is it?

Oh and finishing my undergrad while in grad school isn’t an option. An undergrad degree is required for admission and the program is a structured 2 full year program leaving no time for anything else.

Whether or not I can afford anything remains to be seen. It’ll all depend on how many scholarships I can get and how much I end up having to take out in loans. I’m going on the assumption that I’ll get enough. My boyfriend provides me with a place to live and food and lets me use his Jeep but he can’t afford to pay for my education too.

I see. I misinterpreted and/or made assumptions about your current situation that may not apply.
Calling Quinnipiac and asking to speak to an advisor to get their opinion on your situation is absolutely something you should do. They may be able to guide you towards one option or the other, or may even suggest an alternate route that you haven’t thought about (I’m not sure what…maybe a different program that a lot of their applicants/students have done, like vet tech or somesuch? Just making stuff up here! hehe)

For that matter does Quinnipiac have an appropriate undergrad degree? Why is this not an option? Cost prohibitive/it doesn’t exist/something else?
Let’s see if I’ve summed this up correctly (with made up numbers, perhaps, and holy crap am I glad tuition is dirt cheap in Canada!):

UConn - $20000/year, nearby, minimal transportation issues, live where you currently are, keep the dogs, has a program that is very specific to your goals

Framingham - about $18000/year with board, relatively far from current house (where your boyfriend lives) but not from his job, potentially large transportation issues, boyfriend has to handle the dogs alone, distance isn’t great for relationships in general, does not have specific program but possibly similar courses.

But you stated in your OP that you have no interest in living in a dorm. What’s the cost of Framingham+renting a nearby apartment instead of dorm life? At both my schools and that of my husband, living off-campus was actually cheaper than on-campus. If you aren’t happy in a dorm, your studies may suffer.

It sounds like commuting to Framingham is off the table, and for 75 minutes each way, I think it should be. Undergrad Biology programs typically have lab sessions, and often those result in full days of classes. Commuting those distances with homework/projects on your mind can be stressful, and winter weather will make it much more difficult.

Is that about right?
For $2000/year difference, I think UConn still comes out on top, as the shared living expenses with your boyfriend will save you money (food, internet, etc) and it’s a better program. Your boyfriend can help you keep focused and provide emotional support (and in my case, do the cooking!)

What university (ies) offers the program you want in Canada? I’m just curious!

I am leaning towards UCONN myself, the program is exactly what you need, and only $2K more.

Any chance your BF would consider selling the jeep and getting a smaller car with better mileage and better suspension? It would probably be cheaper to insure and run. [at the time I was in the insurance industry at State Farm SUVs which jeeps are considered were more expensive to insure than compact and small cars, and on par with medium or larger cars.]

There are 8 colleges in the US and one in Canada that are accredited by the American Association of Pathologists’ Assistants. The one in Canada is the University of Western Ontario.
Living in an apartment in Framingham isn’t an option. It’s right in the middle of the Worcester-Boston commute and it’s not a cheap place to live. Besides, living in a dorm would hopefully be covered by grants, loans, and scholarships. An apartment would be out of pocket and isn’t doable.

Getting rid of the Jeep isn’t likely to happen. With about $3k worth of work it’ll be a perfectly good vehicle for the next 22 years. Or we could spend $3k on a used car without 4WD and have a nightmare with constant repairs like we did with my last 2 $3k cars. The insurance is a nonissue. We both have perfect driving records and the Jeep is owned outright so even with the loan on the car, our insurance is only $100 per month total.

Framingham isn’t close to my boyfriend’s job. He actually has about an hour commute. Driving to Framingham has him going about 20 minutes farther on the Pike and then back than he normally would go and it’s right in the middle of his own commute.

But, if he were just dropping me off on Monday and picking me up on Friday, it’s not a huge deal. So, if the Jeep has an issue while I’m at home for the weekend, I’ll still be able to get there. But it’s not an ideal situation for every week.

None of this is an option with UConn because it’s in the completely opposite direction from my mom’s house and my boyfriend’s job.
Despite the similar names, pathobiology and pathology assisting aren’t the same thing. Pathobiology is the study of animal diseases and how they affect humans and the environment. Pathology assisting is doing autopsies. So, while the degree would definitely be a help in the career, it’s not a necessary starting point.
Distance isn’t an issue for the relationship. We’ve been there and done that. We’ve also overcome some big issues that only seeing each other on weekends can’t even come close to. I think we’re good.

I will hugely miss my dogs though. I can talk to my boyfriend every day on the phone and webcam and we play WoW most days so I’ll still get to interact with him. I don’t now if I could handle only seeing my babies on the weekends.
I don’t know what I’m leaning toward right now. I can’t do anything about determining the quality of education until Monday and I can’t even apply until at least August since no one has put out the correct applications yet.

Of course if one offers me a full scholarship and the other doesn’t, my decision would suddenly become a whole lot easier. :stuck_out_tongue:
Oh and the reason that Quinnipiac isn’t an option is twofold. First, it’s a private college and the tuition WITHOUT room and board is about $35k per year. Second, it’s even farther from me than UMASS and Framingham are. It’s my only option for this graduate degree within New England so once I get there (assuming I get there), the commute will have to be dealt with. But, for undergrad it’s so not happening. The annoying thing is that Quinnipiac is the only college involved that has a Phi Theta Kappa scholarship but that $10k doesn’t do me a damn bit of good if the tuition is still $5k more than my next most expensive option.

Both of us moving is totally not an option. That would get me closer to school and him closer to work but we live here for a few reasons.

  1. Southbridge is a hell of a lot less expensive than any place that gets us closer - even factoring in the cost of commuting.
  2. We adore this house. We’ve both always wanted to live in a log cabin. We don’t want to give that up just so I can go to school for 2 years.
  3. Selling a house in this economy isn’t likely to turn out well.

Something else to factor in:

I have to have health insurance. It’s required by MA law and by the colleges. They both offer insurance. Framingham costs about $1k per year and is the same insurance plan I have through QCC. The UConn insurance plan is about $2200 per year.

I don’t know if UConn’s more expensive insurance is enough to drive me toward Framingham but it could stand as a tie breaker.
The class size at UConn and Framingham is pretty equal but Framingham has 13k fewer students and 4000k fewer acres so with my comfort level I’d actually be MORE comfortable at Framingham. I’ve always been more comfortable in smaller communities.

In addition, Framingham doesn’t allow alcohol on campus (according to US News), has no sororities or fraternities, and isn’t a big sports school. This also appeals to me because that combination seems like it would make a quieter campus.

I’m wondering – IF you were to go the dorm route at Framingham, do you have to buy a meal plan?

I assume you’ll know if you’re accepted before you get financing squared away. Find out what - if any - penalties there are if you withdraw after accepting but before the year starts. You can accept both offers of admission,square away your financing and then see what works best at that time.

For insurance, does you boyfriend have insurance through work? Can you get onto that plan as a common-law spouse? Heck, is becoming a spouse on the table at this point, and can it save you money if you are? How much more per month would his insurance be to add you, and is that less than either school option? Schools will allow you to opt out of insurance if you can show you have it through other means.

You probably will have to buy a basic meal plan if you live in dorms, or, at least, that’s the way the schools I’m familiar with in Canada are. It’s also the cost that tends to push off-campus housing into the more affordable zone, though that doesn’t sound likely for your area.

I’ll have sporadic internet access for the next few weeks, so I might just disappear on you. Good luck! I hope you let us know what you eventually decide!

So your choice is between living at the community college or commuting to UConn?

I’d pick commuting every day of the week. The commute is not that bad (84 is empty on that stretch) and you DON’T HAVE TO LIVE WITH A COLLEGE STUDENT!

I mean, seriously. Unless Framingham can get you a single occupancy room, I’d say no way.

Sure, UConn is a boozer school, but that all happens on weekends and nights, precisely when you’ll be home with your dogs and boyfriend. Also, bigger school, better resources, better major, slightly better name and reputation. For a mere $1,000 or two, I’d go this way.

Getting married isn’t an option because his income would prevent me from getting any financial aid at all. He makes enough for that but not enough to actually pay for my education.

I’m not sure if MA or RI recognizes common law marriage but even if they did, we wouldn’t count. Those big problems I mentioned upthread caused us to break up for 2 years and we’ve only been back together for 2 years now (wow, time flies) so not long enough for common law.

Erdosain: Framingham isn’t a community college. It’s a state college. Well, technically it’s a state university - a distinction it gained less than a year ago. I have no clue what the name change has to do with the quality of education though. The community college is where I am now and what I’ll be finishing in December.

I don’t know if I can get into a single room at Framingham but it would definitely be my first choice. They have a woman’s dorm that’s mostly singles, mostly juniors and seniors and is off to the side of the campus away from everything else. THAT would be the perfect dorm for me but I’m sure it’s hard to get in there and priority is probably given to existing juniors and seniors and not transfer seniors.

It’s possible that my age would give me an edge though. My boyfriend said that when he was in college Fitchburg State made every effort to keep the non-traditional boarders together. He said that he only had one 18-year-old in his suite. All the rest were 22-32 and that one suite had a guy who was 58.

I’m about 98% certain that I have to accept admittance before they’ll tell me what the financial aid would be. At my current school, financial aid people wont even talk to you unless you have a student number, which means you’ve paid the acceptance fee and have done all the paperwork. I don’t know if there are any penalties for changing your mind though, other than losing the acceptance fee.

mnmosyne: You’ll be missed! I really appreciate you and everyone else in here giving me ideas and listening to me drone on. It really helps me clarify my thoughts and you guys have brought up things I hadn’t thought of. It’s a huge decision and I want to make the right one. I’ll absolutely let you know where I end up.
So, we’re down to two schools: Framingham State University and University of Connecticut.

Cost: within $4k of each other when insurance, room, and board are added in.

Distance: FSU is about 75 minutes away. UConn is about 40 minutes away.

Drive: FSU is frequently a nightmare. Pike or Route 9 are ALWAYS clogged with insane drivers. UConn is a breeze. 84 and the back roads are generally clear smooth sailing.

Gas: FSU would be least expensive because I’d be boarding and only making the round-trip drive once a week. UConn would be expensive and would have to be paid out of pocket.

Wear and tear on the vehicle: FSU is better because of the boarding thing.

Community: FSU is much better. Smaller, fewer students, smaller classes (not by much though), not at all a party atmosphere. This is important because I’d be living there. UConn is huge, lots of people, slightly bigger classes, way too much athletic obsession and drinking. Not really an issue though because I wont be living there.

Impact on personal life: FSU wouldn’t allow me to see my boyfriend and dogs every day. UConn would.

Major: Regular Biology at FSU. Perfectly serviceable for what I want to do with my life but not tailored to my particular interests (death and disease). Pathobiology at UConn. Also perfectly serviceable for what I want to do with my life while being tailored to my interests as well.

Name-cred: I think everyone would agree that UConn is a much more recognizable name than FSU. This might be an issue for grad school and employment.

Quality of education: I have no clue. I can definitely say that UConn has many more varieties of classes available which would allow me to tailor the degree even more. But, I have no idea if it’s actually a better education.

Insurance: Less expensive at FSU and it’s the plan I’m used to and like. More expensive at UConn and with a provider I tend to shy away from.

Mass-Transfer: At FSU I’ll pay no application fee and not have to write an application essay (I hate those things). I’ll also get guaranteed transfer of credits and guaranteed satisfaction of core classes (with a max of 2 additional classes required), guaranteed acceptance, and a 33% tuition waiver (about $350 per year). UConn doesn’t apply since it’s not a MA school.

Sorry. You mentioned community college at one point and I conflated it with Framingham.

Honestly, from your posts, I’d say you sound like you really want to go to Framingham and just need to be convinced.

If you’re looking for smaller classes and more teacher interaction (while accepting the trade-off of fewer resources and less prestige) then I say go for it. It’s probably really easy to get lost at UConn with two thousand other Bio majors.