17 Mar

3 Steps to Making the (Right) College Choice

The arrival of college acceptance letters is right around the corner, and if you are like most parents of high school seniors, you probably expect to be significantly involved in your child’s college choice.

While it may be tempting to look immediately at the financial bottom line, it is important to keep in mind that choosing the college that best fits your student–even if it is a little more expensive upfront–could save you money in the long run. Students who choose a college without considering their social, emotional, and academic needs often end up changing schools, which can cost more time and money over the long haul.

Here are three key things you’ll want to do as you and your student discuss the final college decision:

1. Look at the Budget

According to a recent report by consulting firm Longmire and Company, 58% of parents feel that cost will have an impact on the decision about which college their child will attend–so it is more than likely you have already been looking at the potential net cost of each school.

However, it is important to look at the big picture when it comes to determining the real cost of attendance at each school. For example, though the tuition at a public school may initially seem more affordable, some private schools offer financial aid packages that make the cost of attendance nearly equal to a state school. Consider not only school, federal and state aid, but also any savings you have, private scholarships your child has won, and your student’s expected contribution.

2. Make a List

Choosing a school based solely on cost–or on a gut instinct–can be frustrating, and doesn’t always lead to the best possible decision. For this reason, I always suggest that my client families consider all of the following categories when it comes time to make the final college choicel:

  • Academic Rigor
  • Teaching Style
  • Campus Culture
  • Location
  • Size
  • Athletic Program
  • Talent Program(s)
  • Special Programs
  • Co-Op Programs
  • Job Placement
  • Religion
  • Attrition
  • Student/Faculty Ratio
  • Safety
  • Students
  • Housing
  • Food
  • Weather

Your child should make a list of ideals for each of these items, and then compare that list with the information you find (or, better yet, experience in person) about each college still under consideration. This will give you a great start when it comes time to narrow down the options.

3. Make College Visits, and Review Your Notes

If you haven’t yet taken the opportunity to visit the top choices on your student’s list, now may be the time. I encourage my clients and their students to see and experience these campuses because an in-person visit can provide a viewpoint that a glossy brochure or snazzy website can’t such as what the students are like, what the general “feel” or attitude on campus is like, the types of facilities that are available for student use, etc. Be sure you take notes on the 18 items listed above, and write down any other information you feel may help you and your child make an educated selection so you can compare schools objectively.

Once you’ve seen the sights, review your notes and discuss your impressions together. Talk to your student about the kind of experience you feel would be available at each college, and encourage your student to try to make an objective decision about which school would honestly be the best fit. And don’t forget to make sure the budgetary limitations are taken into account too!

All the best,
Deborah Fox

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