Finding the right college is an important and sometimes a difficult task. It is one of the first “adult” decisions your child will make. What are some practical things you as a parent can do to assist your child in the decision making process?
Start with discussing career interests and dream colleges with your child. Be sure to do this 9th or 10th grade at the latest. If your child’s dream college or career seems to be unrealistic based on personality, skills or academic abilities be accepting and gently guide your child in discovering the best options.
Have your child make a list of what they are looking for in a college. Remember that things that are important to you may not be important to your child. Also, remember that your alma mater may not be the best fit for your child. Discuss your child’s lists with them. If you do not understand why something is on list, find out why. Helping your child discover what is important to them and areas they are interested in can be a big help. Once you know what you are looking for you are ready to begin the college search.
Use the internet or public library to explore the careers and/or colleges. Many colleges offer virtual tours. If possible you may want to visit a few colleges. College fairs are great because they provide an opportunity for your child to compare several colleges and talk to recruiters. Attending a college fair as a junior is a good idea as well. Visiting a college is also a good idea, be sure to do your research before a campus visit.
Things to Consider
1. Academics. Be sure that the college offers the degree your child is interested. Find out about ranking of the department as well as the academic prestige of the university. Does the school have any notable professors? If so what departments? Being concerned with the academic prestige does not mean you should limit your search only to the top schools. Many smaller schools offer a quality education.
2. Location. Being close to family may be important for child. Some students prefer to live home while others do not. Personally, I wanted to be far enough from home that I could live on campus but close enough I could easily go home for a visit.
3. Clubs and extra curricular activities. One growing trend is that more and more students are selecting colleges based on the perks they offer. Some the perks such as campus wide wireless access can be academically justified. Clubs and activities should not be the most important item on the list but being involved in activities can help make the transition to college easier.
4. Costs and financial aid. The bottom line for many people is the cost. Be assertive when looking for financial aid. Fastweb.com offers help in finding college funding.
5. Be sure that the college fits your child’s needs and personality. When my wife was selecting a college both of her parents wanted her to attend their alma maters. Her mother’s alma mater is an excellent college; it was a good choice for her but for not for my wife. She attended a small private liberal arts college. Academically it is a strong school. I attended a large public school that is also a very good school. Who received the best education? We both did, because we selected schools that were a good fit. My wife and I wrote this article together.