Decisions Revisited: Why Did You Choose a Public or Private College?

We asked our readers to tell us why they chose to attend public or private universities and how that decision has impacted their current careers and lives. We received a wide range of responses, but one lesson is clear: choosing a college is not about what's 'best', but what's best for you.

Students today are faced with myriad options when choosing where and how to earn a degree. Stay at home or go away? On-campus or online? Community college or straight to four-year? While no one can make these decisions for you, we've asked our readers to tell us what factors influenced their decisions to attend private or public universities and how they feel about the choices they've made. We're sharing the best responses to help make the decision-making process a little bit easier.

public university private college public vs. private

I Chose to Attend a Private University Because....

After applying to a mix of public and private colleges, my final decision came down to Brown University or the University of Virginia. I attended really great public schools from kindergarten through high school, so the fact that one university is public and the other is private didn't matter all that much to me - other than the price tag, obviously. Both schools have so much to offer prospective students in terms of their history and their excellent academics. I knew I would receive a top-notch education at UVA, and even as an out-of-state student, going there would be a much lighter burden on my parents. But ultimately I decided I wanted to be closer to home, and at a smaller school. I also felt more at home, culturally, in the Northeast.

Dana G., Executive Editor at Children's Book Press

I chose to attend a private university because it offered the right combination of school size, location and value. When I was looking, Rice University was significantly cheaper to attend than most other private top-tier universities, and in fact, it still consistently ranks at the very top of best-value schools. Rice University also has great all-around academics, which was great for me since I wasn't sure what I wanted to focus my studies on. I wasn't interested in state schools nearby because I wanted something smaller; I felt like I would disappear amongst the crowds at every large public university I visited. And the small class size at Rice was a huge bonus. I was able to meet a large number of students in my incoming class, do research with a professor as an undergraduate and form good relationships with other students in my major because we took enough classes together.

Joshua R., Ph.D., Software Engineer at Google


I Chose to Attend a Public University Because...

I chose to attend public universities both for my undergraduate and graduate education because they offered the highest quality education available in my field. For my undergraduate degree, I attended UC Santa Barbara, where the Department of Chemical Engineering consistently ranks as one of the top three programs in the country. As a California resident, I paid the in-state tuition rate and received a top-rate education for an exceptional price. It would be absurd to pay more for a lower quality education! As for graduate school, tuition is most frequently covered by a research stipend, and thus I chose University of Washington because I was excited about its research opportunities in the clean energy field. I knew that this was the field that I wanted to make a career in, and the University of Washington has highly-respected professors who lead great research teams.

Andrew D., Sr. Systems Engineer at ClearEdge Power

I went to a public university, Arizona State, because they offered incredible scholarships to keep National Merit Scholars in state. The cost of staying in state was comically low compared to any private university. My public state school also made it incredibly easy for me to transition directly from high school to college. I'd already received dual credit in high school that transferred automatically, so I knew I'd enter ASU as a sophomore. I'm sure those credits would have transferred to a private university, but it was a lot easier to just ride the wave to ASU. I was also 'undeclared' my first year year and I thought it was silly to invest huge sums of money in private schools that were famous for a certain program or department if I didn't yet know what I wanted out of my degree. Throw in the fact that I wanted to stay close to my family, and I didn't even visit a single private or out of state university.

Kimberly W., Operations Manager,

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