Families with incoming freshman all over the country are now faced with the sometimes daunting task of trying to decide which offer of admissions their student should accept. Some students have been accepted to their hands-down-first-choice school. They have the easy job of only having to decide what style of stamp they want to stick on the envelope that will carry their housing and tuition deposits to the admissions office.
Other families, like ours, are having to comparison shop the various offers that are considered serious possibilities. It now becomes really important for parents and students to determine which culture will be the best fit. (I believe parents also need to be a part of the decision-making. Our 18 year-old children should have a say, but I think they still need our guidance in making a big decision like this that will greatly impact their lives.) The best way to get to the point where you have that gut feeling about where you child should be is to do a final round of college visits. You and your student should immerse yourselves into the culture of the school.
Visit on a weekday so you can sit in on classes, talk to students and professors, visit the financial aid, admissions and career services offices. In other words, you and your student should observe the school in full operation. Ideally it would be great if your student could arrange to stay overnight at the college for a night or two. Then use the Ben Franklin approach for making a final decision (draw a line down the middle of the page of a yellow pad and list the “pros” of the school in the left column and the “cons” in the right column.) Do this for each school still in the running and you should have compiled some good hard data that will make the choice easier.
Real Life Reasons
You may be wondering how our family made out. My son was accepted by UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara (my alma mater!), Occidental, Carnegie Mellon, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and wait-listed at Harvey Mudd. College matching worked beautifully for us (matching our son’s profile with the colleges who were seeking students with his profile.) He was offered $20,000 to $28,000 per year in financial aid from each of the three private colleges which brings the price down at or below the state schools. (I’ll be writing more about how college matching can significantly reduce your college expenses, so be sure you subscribe to the Pay for College Blog so you don’t miss out on that!)
So this weekend my son and I are off to Occidental in Los Angeles and UC Santa Barbara for their Open House. The following week we’ll jet off to Pittsburg to visit Carnegie Mellon and then possibly make a stop in New York to RPI. I’m really looking forward to the one-on-one time with my son and observing some of his last decision-making as a high school student. Those of us who are going through this exercise realize our babies have grown up. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to cherish these moments…
All the best,