How to Get Into College: Public Versus Private

Last Updated on May 25, 2023

Young student siting outside writing a list of colleges

If you are reading this article, you are probably struggling through the college admissions and the university admission process. There are a few things to consider when you weigh the benefits of going to a private school versus a public school. One of the most obvious is cost. Normally, a public school is less expensive if you are an in-state resident. However, a private grad school ended up being cheaper for me because they had the funds to pay me to be a teaching assistant. I mention this because private schools often have more money, can offer more financial aid, and can give you access to state-of-the-art equipment. I know that funds helped the crew team be undefeated and first in the nation when I was at Yale. I also know that having access to an AVID editing system and other state-of-the-art film equipment benefited me greatly when I was at USC.

It is also worth mentioning that many public schools are located in some of the most expensive cities, or at least the rent is often outrageous, thus causing people to sleep three to four people in a room—yikes! By contrast, many private universities are located in areas with inexpensive rent (often because they are in bad neighborhoods. For this reason, I would strongly recommend taking a self-defense class prior to your freshman year, like the awesome course I took at Bay Area Impact here in Northern California).

Another perk to attending a private college, especially a smaller one that focuses on its undergrads, is that it will prioritize alumni relations because of alumni donations. What that means to you as a perspective student is that it might pay off later to attend a school where you are a name, not just a Social Security number or student id number.

On the other hand, I had initially leaned towards UCLA Film School because I wanted to be around other middle-class students after feeling quite out of place around so many over-privileged students as an undergrad. Public schools also tend to be more representative of the community that surrounds them, so if you like the surrounding city, you are likely to like the student body.

My experience with private schools leads me to advise applicants to consider that you may end up in an ivory tower surrounded by angry and impoverished townspeople, which may be an uncomfortable situation for you. However, you can always volunteer in the community and make a positive difference. In any case, there are a lot of resources available to you to help you figure out how to get into a good college (like College Board and ETS). So do your homework and then have at it. Best wishes for you to achieve more success with less stress.

SOME QUESTIONS TO ASK (Students, Alumni, & Campus Reps):

1. What kind of equipment or facilities will be available to me as a student?

2. What do most students do after they graduate?

3. By the time I am a junior, what will the typical class size be in my major? Will I be in a small seminar with a faculty member?

4. If five, maybe twenty, years after I graduate, I need access to my records or need to contact another alumnus or faculty member, how will the college assist me, if at all?

After graduating from Berkeley High School, Kamala Appel became the first in her family to attend an Ivy League college. While at Yale, Ms. Appel was among the first to implement a recruitment program that involved both junior and senior high schools. As an alumnae, Ms. Appel conducted alumni interviews with high school applicants for Yale University. Ms. Appel also earned a Masters of the Arts from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. During her time at the University of Southern California, Ms. Appel worked closely with the Dean and Associate Dean of the Cinema School on the school’s largest revenue-generating course. You can discover how to get into college and receive college admissions assistance by visiting

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