May 1st marks college decision day, the national deadline for many colleges, on which high school seniors must make their final college choice. Choosing which college to attend is likely the most significant life decision most seniors have had to make. While this is an exciting time worthy of celebrating it can also be confusing, frustrating, and nerve-racking. Each school has its pros and cons, and there are additional points to keep in mind as your student makes their college choice decision.
A College Mindset
Before students can make any decision, let alone a major decision like choosing a college, he or she needs to be in the right mindset. While it can be easy to assume that once college acceptance letters have arrived the stress of applying should fade away, the reality is that a massive life change is ahead.
It can be easy for your student to get nervous about making the wrong choice. That is why it is essential to take some time and remember these critical truths before rushing into a decision about which college to attend. Perhaps the most important fact to remember is that there is more than one ‘right’ college for your child. While you want your child to make the best choice, he or she can be happy at many different schools.
A college experience is much more than merely the name of the college. Every school offers opportunities and a chance to build relationships. Future successes will not be determined solely by the name on a diploma. Likewise, where your student attends college does not, and should not, define self-worth. A rejection by your child’s dream school does not mean that he or she is not worthy to attend. Top colleges have far too many applicants for the number of seats available. Instead, focus on the colleges that did accept your student!
Even your child’s final college choice isn’t final forever. If he or she indeed did make the wrong decision about which college to attend, there is always the opportunity to transfer to a different college. Let your student give the first choice school a full year to make its best impression. If, after the end of the first year of college, he or she is still disappointed, then he or she can transfer to a different college.
A College Decision
Once your student has the right college mindset with a clear mind and a balance of practicality and optimism, it is time to make a college decision. This part of the decision-making process involves looking at the facts and narrowing down their choices. It can be helpful to have a list to keep things in perspective as well as to help keep track of information.
There are so many things to consider when choosing a school, ranging from majors to class size. A first step should be to confirm the details of your student’s intended major or program. Review all of the course requirements associated with the major of choice and learn how many students are enrolled that will share the major or field of study. Find out how easy it is to change majors and prepare for alternatives your child would have if he or she decides to switch programs. Research the qualifications of the professors in the department and find out what the average student to teacher ratio is.
Compare financial aid and scholarship packages from your student’s top college choices. Determine the total cost of attendance at each college. Make sure to include expenses for travel, housing, meals, books, parking, and any other fees. Be aware and know if he or she will graduate with debt and, if so, how much that debt will be. If your student is offered a scholarship, make sure to understand if he or she needs to maintain a certain GPA in order to keep it. Make note of when the repayment of loans will begin. It is important to understand all of the fine print that applies to financial aid awards.
Talk to current students, alumni, and trusted adults. Ask questions to get a complete view of what to expect at each college. The final step will be to let your student decide on his or her own. Allow your child to make an educated, clear-headed decision about which he or she is excited.
Don’t forget, there is not one ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ college for your child. He or she will likely flourish at many different schools. By following our guidelines, your student is bound to end up at a school where he or she will have fun, discover passions, expand his or her view of the world, and develop a successful career path. Get excited! Your student is going to college!