How to help your student pick a college

Picking a college

It’s decision time. Once a student has been admitted to several universities, it can be difficult to figure out which one is the best choice for everyone involved.

The college selection process doesn’t have to be overwhelming in fact, it should be a pleasant experience. Here’s how your family can be ready when college decision day rolls around.

Academic and career goals

Know where you want to end up. It can be a positive family experience to help guide your student in creating goals or identifying skills. Both short and long term, academic, personal and professional. Advise your student as they think through what they want to accomplish during the college years such as studying abroad, getting jobs and internships, achieving independence, career aspirations, lifestyle, etc. You can also assist your student in targeting what they want to learn and the skills they want to achieve from going to college. Considering the tools they want to gain along the way, not just the degree they’ll earn at the end can help define and identify schools that will be most beneficial in getting them where they want to be in the future.

Pros and cons

Put pencil to paper (or finger to keyboard) and jot down the strengths and potential weaknesses that relate to each college choice. Consider factors such as location and distance, cost, environment, academic reputation, safety, support services and degree program options when narrowing down choices. Students and families might consider doing their own independent research on these topics then have a follow-up discussion with each other about findings and conclusions. 

Trusted recommendations

Don’t hesitate to talk to friends, other family members and college admission representatives and advise your student to do the same, adding teachers and high school counselors to their list. The people in your life that know particular things about you and your family can provide what’s likely to be honest and unbiased input from a fresh perspective. Insider tip: university representatives are in the business of helping students succeed. A good admission counselor or recruiter should help your family make the decision that is best for you. They should listen and help guide you, rather than pushing you to attend their school. Pay attention to how university representatives make you feel. Their approach may be an indicator of a larger university philosophy. When it comes down to making a decision, these conversations should not sound like sales pitches.

Where to go to college is a decision that should be made together between the family and the student. It involves a lot of conversation, connection and listening to each other. Keep an open mind. Even if you are funding your child's education, it’s good to truly listen to the needs of your student and factor in their input into the decision making process. What your student is passionate about or interested in may be different from what you think might be best. Have an honest and open discussion and decide together. 

Students can change their minds even after attending a semester. They might meet people or learn about concepts that open their eyes to new interests they didn’t consider before. They have time in the first year or two of their studies to transfer to new programs or even a new school. 

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