It’s that time of year and students all over the country are anxiously awaiting the decision of their college applications. Some will decide to stay close to home, while others will step away from their familiar surroundings and move more than a thousand miles away. Regardless of the decision to be made, choosing a college is one of the most exciting, yet challenging decisions a college bound student will make. There will be questions, excitement, and uncertainty, so helping to guide your child in this process is an invaluable role.
Often times, families become focused on the “name” of a school and believe that acceptance into an Ivy League institution is a no-brainer when it comes to deciding where to go. However, attending a prestigious college will not guarantee your child’s success or even his/her happiness. What is important is choosing a college that will be the best fit for your child. With that said, the following factors are key areas to consider when narrowing down college options.
- Quality of Education: The quality of your child’s education is usually a front runner when selecting a college. From knowledgeable professors to the opportunity to engage in research as early as your freshman year, many families consider the amount of focus that is placed on the undergraduate population and how it will prepare their child for graduate school and beyond.
- Overall Cost: While the financial aspect can often be a deal breaker, it’s not uncommon for families to accept the initial higher than expected sticker price if they know their child is going to be receiving a “quality” education, along with an appealing financial aid package. The overall affordability of a college must be analyzed carefully because let’s face it, we are talking about the next four years of tuition, books, meals, etc. Was your child awarded merit or need-based aid to help contribute to the expenses and if so, did this make the college affordable? It’s also a good idea to consider graduation rates. It may be in your child’s best interest to attend a college that is slightly more expensive as long as they have high 4-year graduation rates. As opposed to a college that is less expensive, but may take your child 5+ years to graduate due to impacted class sizes.
- Location: To stay local or venture on is always a tough factor to consider. Whether you want your child to stay closer to home, or he/she would prefer to branch out of the comfort zone you have created, this is a discussion to have as a family. Will your child feel supported at a college out of state? Are they ready to tackle this level of independence, or would he/she prefer to be able to drive home at a moment’s notice? Is there easy access to an airport if your child is seeking a college far from home?
- Campus Community: Many students yearn for that “big school” feel, while others learn best in a small classroom environment. If your child excels with more personal attention and prefers to have professors easily accessible, a smaller campus community may be a better fit. However, on the other hand, for those seeking more campus involvement, does the college offer a particular club or sport, and does it maintain a highly spirited campus population?
- Major: Last, but certainly not least is your child’s major of interest. Many students select an area of interest on their college applications and if so, will the college they are considering provide a program that will keep them challenged and fulfilled? Though, if an immediate concentration has not been decided, it’s best to select a college that will encourage exploration and offer options to do so.
If you are still challenged with narrowing down college options after factoring in the above areas, keep in mind that colleges often provide admitted students with an “Admit Day” so they can visit the campus and get an inside perspective on what it will be like to attend. This can be very helpful, as it provides more information to students than an individual tour guide’s perception of the campus. It’s recommended to use the above guidelines to help select your child’s top three best-fit schools and then schedule a time to visit the campuses. Visiting colleges can be an important part of the process for students when selecting their final college choice. If you would like help in narrowing down your child’s college options, then contact My Pathway to College for a college selection meeting.
Regardless of the college your child decides to attend, this is a time of celebration! The decision to narrow down college options may be a daunting task, but it’s a task to be thankful for. Cherish this time, reflect on the hard work that earned this opportunity, and help your child choose a college that will be the “best fit.” You have done your job as parents, and you have done it well. Now it’s time to sit back and watch your child follow his/her dreams.