Selecting a college is perhaps one of the most important academic decisions that students and their parents will ever make. Choosing carefully and wisely can make all the difference in setting a student up for a successful higher education experience.
These six steps can help your students find the perfect collegiate fit.
Know your priorities. Start by asking yourself or your child a few key questions. Why do you want to go to college? In what type of academic and social environment do you think you will be most successful? At the end of your college career, what do you hope to accomplish? What is your ultimate career goal, and what type of college or program might best help you attain that goal?
Research the college before you step foot on campus. Learn all the basic information about the college even before you arrive, including the majors offered, the size of the student body, average class size, and co-curricular opportunities that might interest you. In doing so, you’ll enable yourself to ask more relevant, in-depth questions when you arrive on campus to take a tour or meet with admission counselors.
Observe at least one class. In fact, if possible, try to observe multiple classes, including an introductory course and one or two classes offered in different programs or disciplines in which you are interested. If you can, also talk to professors to get a feel for the structure of their programs and courses.
Immerse yourself in college life. Eat lunch in the cafeteria. Visit the library. Sit on the lawn and watch the students. Stay for an athletic event or check out the recreation center. Try to absorb as much of the college atmosphere as you can to see if you come away with an emotional connection to the campus.
Be prepared to talk money. Make time to meet with one of the college’s financial aid officers. Every college has different financial aid programs and scholarship and grant opportunities. Consider bringing along a copy of your financial aid application and your most recent tax return so you can ask specific questions. Do your best to fully understand what the bottom line will be so you can better determine if the cost is truly worth it.
Don’t be afraid to come back. Campus open houses or visitation events are a great way to get acquainted with a college, but if you still have questions, come back for another visit or two on your own to continue to get a feel for the campus, learn your way around, and determine whether the atmosphere and offerings best align with your interests and goals.