Top 10 Tips for Choosing the Right College for Your Child
Once your child enters high school, you’re likely thinking a lot about their future college education and how to choose a college that will suit both their academic and lifestyle needs.
Choosing the best college for your child takes a lot of research, time and travel – as both you and your child will likely want to visit at least a couple of prospective campuses. Selecting the right college should be a joint decision (especially if you’re footing the bill!) but ultimately your child will need to have a lot of say in the decision, as this is ultimately where he or she will be spending four of the most influential years of their lives.
To help you both out in picking the ideal college, here are 10 essential tips that should make your decision process a little easier:
1. Pick a Major
Although your child may not know yet what he or she wants to choose as a major, try to narrow down to a of couple potential majors so that you can look at schools that offer the very best programs in these fields. Of course your child can change their mind once enrolled, but enrolling in a school that offers top programs in their potential majors should give them a good head start. Do some online research to find out which colleges offer the best majors per subject, and websites such as US News & World Report usually have a comprehensive list that is updated annually.
2. Explore Top Ranked Schools
Not all kids get accepted into Ivy Leagues, but your child may have a chance of getting into another top ranked school nationally or in your home state. Attending a top ranked school will ultimately give your child a great chance of finding steady employment after graduation, as a high ranked college or university always appears impressive on a resume. Take a look at the top ranked schools out there and see which ones may be suitable and/or interest your child.
3. Is the Price Right?
College can be extremely expensive, especially if you’re child isn’t one of the privileged few to get a great deal on financial aid. Look at the tuition and accommodation rates to see what you can expect to have to pay for your child’s education – or how much they will need to take out in student loans. Naturally college is going to be a major expense, but you shouldn’t have to go bankrupt for it or for your child to graduate saddled with an insane amount of student debt, so be careful when it comes to choosing a school that both you and your child can afford. This may mean that your child can’t go to his or her dream private school, but in the long run the money you will save from choosing an affordable school could more than weigh out any sacrifices you and your child may have to make.
4. Look at Accommodation Options
Look at the accommodation options for your child. Are they affordable and are they safe? Your child should ideally be able to have student accommodation that offers affordable rates and that is housed in a secure building. There should also be some kind of meal plan available that your child can purchase each year to ensure that he or she will never have to go hungry. Accommodation can have a huge effect on a college student’s overall experience, so don’t forget to thoroughly research this one.
5. Scholarships and Financial Aid Availability
Paying for graduate school can be a lot more affordable and achievable if your child manages to be awarded financial aid and/or scholarships. For each school you consider check what percentage they award financial aid and scholarships to, and try to pick a school where your child will have a very good chance of being awarded some kind of financial benefits. This should increase your child’s chances of getting a discounted education and hopefully make either your bill a little lighter or your child’s student debt a lesser amount when he or she graduates.
6. Check Application Requirements
College requirements can vary from school to school, so definitely check what the college entrance requirements are for each college you both consider. Some schools may only accept students with a certain GPA while others may only accept students from certain states or counties. Make an outline of all the entry requirements for your top selected colleges to get an idea of what you’re dealing with, and take the application process from there.
7. What Extra Curricular Activities are Available?
If your child is the sporty type or likes to be involved in lots of clubs and societies, then you’ll want to pick a college or university that has a particularly active extra curricular activity scene. Schools can definitely differ greatly on this, as some have a ton of extra curricular activities available while others have very few. Many college and university websites will have a detailed student activities or student life section, so look here to see exactly what’s available and what your child can expect extra curricular activity wise as a student there.
8. Greek Life Presence
Some students have no interest whatsoever in Greek life where as to others it’s an essential component to their college experience. If your child is keen to join a fraternity or a sorority, then make sure that he or she opts for a college or university that has an active Greek life and presence on campus. You can usually tell how active Greek life is from a school’s website and from its general reputation. Generally speaking, the more fraternities and sororities that are available on a single campus, the more Greek life orientated the college or university is.
9. What are Alumni Doing Now?
Look at what recent alumni are doing now either on career profile sites like LinkedIn or on the school’s official alumni section to get an idea of what your child can expect once they graduate. Ideally you should choose a school that has a great reputation for getting graduates hired into great entry level jobs in the students’ desired industries, so definitely spend some time looking at how successful a school is at doing this.
10. Check the Quality of Career Services
It’s essential that your child not only excels academically but also prepares his or herself in college for a lasting career, so always check career services at a college or university. Look for internship opportunities, career counseling and if they offer any kind of networking events or mixers to their students. The more advanced and thorough a career center is on campus, the greater chance your child has of using it to get their dream first job out of college.
Choosing a college is no easy feat, and you and your child will probably butt heads at least a couple of times over where your child should complete their higher education. However, you can use the above tips to help the both of you make a sound and solid decision and decide what’s both best for his or her’s education and career. Good luck!