Guide to Choosing Colleges
Even in the best of times it is tricky to know where to start in coming up with your preliminary college list. Poor list-making often means finding yourself at a college where you are unhappy, and immediately thinking about dropping out or transferring. This situation can have negative long term effects, and in the short run, cost you time and money.
Do you know the average time to obtain a bachelor’s degree? Because of various kinds of mismatches, whether academic or personal, it is a little over 6 years. It’s an indication of the generally poor job many students do in researching and organizing their college list.
- Setting: are you better suited for a rural life, or are you made for the city?
- Campus aesthetic: Do you like the classic, old brick building campuses or a more modern flare? And it’s not just about architectures. Modern campuses may have more amenities, especially in the dorms.
- Academics: do you know what you want to study? Not all departments are created equal, even within the same school, so it’s a good way to narrow down your choices.
- College size: do you like crowds and educational anonymity, or do you want to feel like you know everyone on campus?
- Weather: this is actually a huge thing to consider. If you loathe the cold, going to school in Maine might not be the experience of a lifetime.
How to Tour Your Favorite Schools
Take your time to visit the schools you are interested in. Here’s what to focus on to gauge how well you might fit in there:
- Eat in the cafeteria. It’s important because the worst way to finish a day of endless study is eating chicken that tastes like sawdust.
- If you’ve got time, schedule an overnight visit. Visiting a dorm is one thing. Sleeping there is another. If you’re going to spend four years somewhere, it’s a good idea to sleep there at least one night first.
- Visit a class in your intended major. Classes range in quality and style, even within a department, but it’s still more revealing than sitting in on a general requirement course.
- Talk to current students who aren’t part of the tour. While the campus guide is probably a student, remember that they’re paid to sell you on how great that school is, so talk with other students and get a sense of what the campus is really like.
- Explore solo. Tours only show the good stuff. When it’s over, go everywhere it didn’t. Find the stuff you don’t like so there aren’t surprises later.
Wrap Up Loose Ends in High School
It’s easy for graduating seniors and their families to get overwhelmed and stressed out. Your list of to-do’s is probably never ending. In light of that, here’s a quick list of things you should remember:
- Don’t forget to request that your final high school transcript be sent to your college.
- Make a final appointment with your school counselor to ensure there are no unforeseen surprises and to ask any last minute questions.
- Although this time is “all about you” and your accomplishment, don’t neglect those people – teachers, counselors, mentors, parents, and friends – who have helped nurture, nudge, and inspire you. Hand-written thank you notes are priceless! Not only do they convey your gratitude, they show you cared enough about the person to take 10-15 minutes to personally express this gratitude.
- Enjoy time with your friends! Being excited and having fun is all part of graduation, but use the “3S measuring stick” for good decision-making: be smart, safe, and sober!
- See them through ’til the end! Finding the right balance between keeping seniors focused and allowing them different ways to celebrate their success may seem like an oxymoron, but both are equally important.
- Recognition, Reward & Responsibility! Recognition may not cost anything, however, the payoff can be huge. Don’t forget to tell them how proud you are of them – and why. Reward them with a graduation party where friends and family can share in the celebration, and/or plan a special trip or outing that will become a treasured memory of this time. This is also a perfect time to reinforce responsibility as part of being a young adult. The easiest way to do that? Make sure they’re involved in financing their own education.
- Congratulations! With nearly a 30% high school drop-out rate in the United States, don’t forget to give both yourself and your teen a “high five!” A parent’s involvement in and support of their children’s education is one of the most defining factors for student success.
The College Search
- College Selection, Parents & College on the Cheap
- Don't Choose on Sticker Price
- How Do I Choose the Right School for Me?
- Finding the Right College
- Finding the Right Fit in a College
- Keeping the College Doors Open
- Lessons Learned About the College Process for Six Children
- Lessons Learned on the First Year of College Costs
- Setting the Parameters in the College Search Process
- When should I start looking at schools?
Applications and Admissions
- College Acceptance Letters
- College Admissions Advice
- Competitive College Applications
- Considering the Cost of College in the Admissions Decision
- Different Children Take Different Approaches to the College Application Process
- Early Decision Applications
- Leadership Development and College Applications
- Making the transition from high school to college
- Nagging About College Applications
- Organizing the Application Process
- Your Academic Resume