Advice for the high school senior struggling to pick a college.
by Anne Vaccaro Brady
But some less obvious factors can seal the deal for your high school senior.
Which college accepts those AP or IB credits? Your student worked hard to get those credits and shouldn’t let them go lightly. They can mean the difference between graduating in four years instead of five. AP/IB credits also open up the opportunity to graduate a semester early, or to study abroad.
There isn’t always a perfect school My son picked his college because he couldn’t come up with a reason not to go there. All the others had at least one negative.
My daughter, on the other hand, knew she’d found her college right after an accepted students tour.
Your senior doesn’t have to be in love with a college to choose it. Mine are happy where they are, at the same university, but for different reasons.
The college is too far or too close to home Distance is an over-rated issue, unless travel costs are a problem. How often will/should your freshman really come home? How often will they want you to visit? The question is more how easily can they get home—is there a bus station, train station and/or airport nearby or a student share-a-ride program? At every college information session I asked about transportation options, usually annoying my kids.
The familiar face I think knowing at least one person from home on your campus helps, even if it’s not a good friend. Something about knowing that person is there offers a sense of security.
On the other hand, I don’t recommend that kids pick a college to be with their best friend because this often works in one of two ways: The friends are not BFFs by the end of the first semester, or the friendship creates a barrier to meeting new people.
Your senior also shouldn’t dismiss a school if someone they don’t like goes there. That person can usually be avoided or will turn out to be the cheapest or most convenient ride home.
The relationship factor If your teen is dating someone, that’s likely to be a major consideration when choosing a college. Most of these relationships don’t last, though you can’t really tell your child that. Instead, remind them that as a young adult they need to have a mature discussion with their partner about the best option for each of them and that may mean being far apart for a while.
Going away v. commuting Some kids don’t want to go away if their friends are staying close to home for fear that they’re missing out on “stuff.” The truth is their friends will be busy with their own college or work experiences and won’t be hanging out the same way they all did in high school.
The opposite is true, as well. Your teen shouldn’t feel the need to go away to college simply because the majority of their friends are. There are a lot of good reasons to commute.
Weather It’s important to find out if their top college is in an area that’s consistently too cold, too hot, too rainy or too snowy so they’re not surprised when the weather is different than it was on Accepted Students Day and they end up asking to transfer in a year. But, as my daughter points out, if the weather is too nice, that could be distracting for some freshmen.
Campus layout My son decided against one of his top choice schools when he saw that his program was located on the other end of the university, a 10-minute bus ride from the main campus, the part that had attracted him to the school in the first place.
If your teen really likes a college but the setup is similar to what my son saw, have them talk with some students beforehand about how to stay involved and feel more a part of campus.
Food Dining hall food can get boring quickly, especially if there’s only one on the entire campus and it doesn’t have a cool food court like many colleges these days. What’s available beyond the university “gates” but within walking distance?
Greek life Some college’s social scenes are run by fraternities and sororities and at others these are just fringe groups. Your senior needs to know which environment best suits them.
Housing Most freshmen dorms can be on the rowdy side, but they help the average kid assimilate and make friends. If your teen is into a quieter scene, they should choose a college that offers more options, like mixed-year dorms and learning communities.
There you go. Hope your senior finds the right fit.
Share your thoughts and experiences on helping your senior pick a college in the comments section below.