Selecting the right college can be a struggle. Maybe your kid has come to you with a dozen college pamphlets and no idea what they are looking for. Or they have a clue about what kind of universities they like but need to narrow down a few favorites.
It can be overwhelming for a young person to make such an important decision. But as the responsible adult, you can help them create a list of colleges that would be a perfect fit.
So, where do you begin when it comes to selecting a college? Here are 3 important factors to consider:
Finances may not be the most romantic thing to think of when selecting a college, but your child must know what they are getting into before signing any dotted lines.
Here are a few important questions to ask when it comes to finances:
What is the average debt of students who graduate from this college?
What are the chances of students getting a job after they graduate from this college?
Is the price of attendance realistic for us?
What is the cost of room and board?
If your kid is planning on taking out student loans, you can use a loan calculator to estimate how much they will be expected to pay each month after graduation. Take a look at the monthly payments and decide if you and your child can realistically cover these costs. Your child might have to choose a college with lower tuition depending on your answers to these types of questions. It helps to start saving as early as possible, especially through a 529 plan.
As a parent, you most likely have a close eye on which colleges offer the best academics. It’s important to check out which colleges have a great program in the major your child is interested in. If your kid isn’t sure what they want to study, look at universities that can help them learn about different fields rather than one that expects them to declare a major right away.
Another thing to consider is your child’s learning style. Here are some questions to discuss with them:
Do you prefer small classes that offer more one-on-one interaction with the professor or classes with hundreds of students in lecture halls?
Do you thrive in a competitive academic environment or a more supportive environment?
On another note, maybe your kid wants to study abroad, do an internship, or volunteer alongside their studies. Select a college that offers these types of academic pathways if that’s the case.
Lastly, take a look at the graduate rate and support offered at each particular college. See if tutoring or study groups are available. Remember, college comes with a lot of freedom your child might not be used to. Make sure they have support nearby if they need it.
Since your child will be settling in for four years, it’s important to study the surrounding environment and social activities on campus. The more clubs and social events a college provides, the easier it will be to have a fulfilling life outside of classes. An exciting social scene is a great way to make new friends and help students adjust to their new scenery.
Some other things you should consider are what kinds of residence halls are available, the meal plans (and if the food is known to be delicious or poor quality), and the types of services on campus (grocery stores, pharmacies, medical centers).
Lastly, here are some questions to ask about the environment:
- Is the college close to home?
- Is there transportation nearby?
- How is the weather in this area?
- What is there to do in the surrounding neighborhood?
Now, with all these factors to consider, you’ll want to make it easy to compare universities.
An easy way to do this is by using an Excel spreadsheet. Put college names in the columns and key factors in the rows. Once you do this, you can rank each college from 1-5 in every category and add up the points. The college with the highest point total should get your undivided attention.
All in all, you may find it hard to differentiate one university from another. On the surface, they might all look alike. However, if you do your research and compare every last detail, you will help your child make the right choice.