Your choice of a college should be just that: your own personal choice based on unique talents, interests and career goals, you are playing an important role as a decision maker.
Start by rating all prospective colleges, keeping these five key areas in mind:
Academics and Reputation
First of all, you should only consider accredited schools. Accreditation guarantees the academic programs meet certain standards. It may also impact your ability to obtain financial aid and even your student’s ability to get into graduate school.
Other academic considerations include:
- Quality of the faculty
- Opportunities to participate in research as an undergraduate
- Opportunities to study abroad
- An outstanding department in your child’s chosen field, or a strong core curriculum of liberal arts courses to aid in choosing a major
- Student support services (tutoring and mentoring programs)
Make sure you have answers to all of these questions
- What is the school’s reputation with potential employers and graduate schools?
- How about its alumni?
- Are they actively involved with the college, so they could be a helpful network after graduation?
- And speaking of graduation, what percentage of students graduate in four years?
- How many return for sophomore year?
The size of a school’s undergraduate population should fit a student as well as a favorite pair of jeans or sneakers.
Smaller schools offer a more personalized approach, because a lower student-to-faculty ratio allows more interaction with professors inside and outside the classroom.
Larger schools, on the other hand, often offer more diversity in both the student population and the course offerings.
College costs a lot of money. But you shouldn’t scratch a school off your list merely because of its price tag.
Many expensive schools offer excellent financial aid packages to attract students at different income levels. Have a talk with your parents about what your family is able to pay and the amount you expect them to contribute.
Calculate together how much financial aid you would need for every school considered. Be sure to factor housing, transportation, meals and other incidentals into the total cost.
The right school in the wrong location is—well, the wrong school.
No matter what’s great about a school, if it’s in a place that’s too hot, too cold, too rainy, too remote or too noisy and busy to suit your favor, you will be in for a miserable year—and possibly an early transfer.
The college experience extends way beyond the classroom. Day-to-day interactions in the residence halls, at meals and at campus events and activities will be a vital part of your growth and education.
Go online and explore college websites together. Try to imagine what daily life would be like at various schools.
- Which clubs or activities would you seek out?
- How comfortable do the residence halls look?
Check out everything from menus to security systems.
Since you can only learn so much online, plan to visit top-choice schools in your list.