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Which College Should Your Student Attend?
As you research, research and visit colleges that may be of interest to you and your children, you will find that each college has a different look, feel and appeal. Something you will like. You will not do otherwise. That’s all part of the narrowing process.
To help ensure that you and your children make clearly focused decisions, you can use the following information to sort through your choices. Some of you may want to use a five point scale to rate each college on items 4 – 11. This way, parents and students can more easily compare colleges on individual items and overall scores. You can also add items, if that would be useful. However, the first three items on this list should be fully discussed and agreed upon before you start looking at colleges.
1. Assess your financial situation – How many children do you have? How much money can you spend on each child’s college education? Is the student able and willing to get a part-time job? What are the chances of your student receiving a significant amount of grant and merit scholarship money? Is the student interested in taking out one or more student loans? As a parent, are you willing to take out one or more loans to help pay for college?
2. Consider cost-cutting options – Since money is a concern for many parents, students should consider community colleges and low-cost four-year colleges. However, be sure to check the ratings and reputation of those colleges. It pays to attend a college with a good reputation. So, if you get good grades, you’ll be able to transfer to a top-ranked, four-year college. Don’t overlook the savings you can earn by attending a local college and staying at home. Does the student need a car? Should a student attend college on a part-time, pay-as-you-go basis? Explore the options to determine which is best for you.
3. Evaluate your student’s high school performance – be honest. What is the quality of the high school your child attended? The best colleges will consider it. Carefully evaluate your student’s high school performance, including: academic achievement, leadership roles, participation and performance in school activities, community involvement and service, part-time work, significant life experiences, obstacles overcome, and outstanding achievements. In what areas has your student been recognized for excellence by others? What are the chances that your student will excel in college?
4. Financial Aid – First, you should be interested in grants and scholarships, not loans. how
How much money is each college willing to offer your child? Are there enough differences between the offers to influence a student’s college choice? Eligible students should begin searching for local and national scholarships and grant money early in their junior year of high school. After investigating all possible grants and scholarships, look into other options, including work-study programs, part-time jobs and loans. With student loans coming in all shapes and sizes, both students and parents should carefully consider each loan option. Obviously, some loans are more repayment friendly than others. Make sure you fully understand all loan requirements before committing. Also understand that you will be paying off those college loans for over twenty years.
5. College Rating – Many colleges have international, national, state or local reputation. What is the reputation of the colleges your students are applying to? Are there any colleges known for the field your student plans to enter? Colleges with a good reputation can be helpful when it’s time to find a job.
6. Career Services – Is the career services office adequately staffed to provide individual assistance, classes, and training to each student, or do they only provide information on their web site? Do they help students with every aspect of the job search: goals, planning, assessment tools, research, networking, resumes, interviews, references and more? Can they help students with internships, part-time and summer jobs? Can they refer students to alumni who are already working in their field of interest?
7. Job Placement Statistics – Colleges are very smart with the statistics they present. Many colleges report that 95% or more of their students are employed within six months of graduation. However, those numbers don’t tell you how many students are working in their field of interest and earning a living wage. Are graduates forced to stay at home because they can’t afford to live independently and still pay off their college loans? Before choosing a college, students should find out how many employers in their field of interest actually come to that campus to hire students. How many students in that field received job offers as a result of campus interviews? What was the job title they were offered? How much did they pay? Where were they located? Parents and students have a vested interest in these answers.
8. Campus Safety and Security – Every college has safety and security issues. What are the statistics of the last four years? Ask about murder, rape, assault, stalking, theft and trespassing. What are the preventive measures? Regarding major security incidents, what is the college’s track record and ability to promptly communicate with students about lockdowns? How does the college handle infectious health problems – meningitis, etc.? Are you satisfied with the way each college has handled such issues? Be sure to ask and research about dorm safety. Talk to current students about these issues.
9. Consulting Services – What consulting services are provided? What counseling services does your student need? Students often seek counseling for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, drugs, alcoholism, academic performance and career issues. How extensive are these services? How often have students used each service over the years? What is the success rate?
10. Parents Association – Which colleges have parents association? If they have one, you’ll be able to talk to other parents about any concerns you may have. Decide if each college is parent and family friendly. You will find that some are interested in parenting opinions, suggestions and involvement, while others are not. Some colleges just want your tuition payment and annual donation.
11. Campus Activities – When students have a particular interest, make sure the colleges under consideration offer the student an opportunity to participate. Other students may prefer colleges with a wider array of activities, so they can explore their options and test their skills.
Once you’ve narrowed down the four or five colleges that interest you the most, fit the student’s qualifications and meet your personal financial needs, the application process can begin. Many students implement strategies to help ensure acceptance into colleges that fit their needs and desires. They apply to one or two colleges that they consider a stretch, two or three that they are confident of acceptance and one or two that they consider a slam dunk. This is an excellent strategy to consider, as the competition among high quality, low cost colleges will always be tough. Keep in mind that some colleges accept less than 20% of their applicants.
When parents do well in this process, they will help their children gather and evaluate important college information, explore options, focus on what will enable students to succeed, and teach their children how to make sound and informed decisions. However, once the choices are narrowed down to the two or three most suitable colleges, the final selection should be left to the student.
Visit Bob’s web site: http://www.The4Realities.com. Bob Roth is the author of The 4 Realities of Success During and After College—and—The College Student’s Guide to Landing a Great Job.
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