The new school year is upon us, and perhaps you and your urchin have begun thinking about where he or she will attend college. If you're like many people, you might think that a private college is best.

It's worth thinking twice about them, though, since they can cost several times what public schools cost. Some private schools have prestigious names, which can open some doors, or at least give a bit of shine to a resume. But, a hard-working, clever student at a public university can achieve just as much. Besides a college's name, graduate schools or employers will be looking at courses taken, grades, recommendations from faculty members, initiative taken, achievements, and so on.

An interesting exercise is to have your child interview five to 10 adults he admires, asking where they went to college, and how they think their college choice made a difference in landing jobs and in their career.

Your child might also look over these lists of people and the schools they attended, to see that successful people have gone to all kinds of schools:

Public Schools
Warren Buffett (investor extraordinaire): University of Nebraska
Bill Cosby (comedian): Temple University
Roger Ebert (movie critic): University of Illinois
David Gardner (Fool co-founder): University of North Carolina
Jim Henson (Muppets creator): University of Maryland
Stephen King (writer): University of Maine
David Letterman (TV personality): Ball State University
Steven Spielberg (director): California State College, Long Beach
Oprah Winfrey (media personality): Tennessee State University

Private Schools
Madeleine Albright (Secretary of State): Wellesley College
Carly Fiorina (Hewlett-Packard CEO): Stanford University
Tom Gardner (Fool co-founder): Brown University
Ruth Bader Ginsberg (Supreme Court justice): Cornell University
Steve Jobs (Apple co-founder): Reed College
Denzel Washington (actor): Fordham University
Tiger Woods (golfer): Stanford University

Different personalities thrive in different environments. Public schools are attractive because (among other things) they can cost a lot less. But, with proper planning and perhaps some scholarships thrown in, private schools can be very affordable, too.

For more on this topic, read thisinteresting article that questions whether high-priced colleges are worth it. And if you want a comprehensive (yet concise) overview of all the ways you can save for future education costs, check out The Motley Fool's Guide to Paying for School: How to Cover Education Costs from K to Ph.D. or drop by our College Savings Center.

For more personal finance and investing basics, visit our Personal Finance area, our Investing Basics area, and our Fool's School. You can also learn a lot via our acclaimed How-to Guides and online seminars and our book, The Motley Fool Money Guide: Answers to Your Questions About Saving, Spending and Investing .