How to Pick the Best College with Your Child
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Most teens already have an idea of where they want to go to college. They might even have a major picked out, a career to work toward, and other goals to meet.
It is not unusual for this process to feel overwhelming. Some students receive dozens of offers, adding further strain to the eventual decision.
When it is time to pick the best college with your child, here are some steps to consider following to take some of the stress away.
Step #1: Understand the Outcome
The best college provides the classes and degree(s) that your child wants for their future career. It should be an accredited institution that has a robust reputation for success. That doesn’t mean you need to attend the largest or the most expensive university in the country. Some small-town schools can produce excellent results. Knowing what to look for will make this process easier.
Start by reviewing the available majors. Once your child finds something they prefer, examine the class list to see if the school teaches the information needed for their future career.
Step #2: Reduce the List
The goal is to find the schools where your child can be in the top 30% of all applicants. These students typically receive better financial aid packages. You may have some dream schools in mind, but the focus should be on the ones with reasonable graduation rates, low default rates, and a history of job placement.
Try to get your list to 15 or fewer schools during this step. You don’t need to make a final decision yet, but it is helpful to stop looking at the institutions which don’t make the grade.
Step #3: Visit the Campus
Whether you visit virtually or in-person, understanding a school’s culture must be part of the evaluation. Since multiple trips can get expensive quickly, try to get your list to 3-5 institutions before you start traveling. It helps to come with prepared questions to get a feel for what to expect when your child starts attending full-time. Have a meal at the cafeteria, speak to employees, and talk with several students to discuss their experiences.
Step #4: Compare Offers
Applying to numerous colleges can be expensive and time-consuming. Some families put in applications to over 20 schools! You should apply to the institutions that you preferred after your visit, along with 1-2 that are dream destinations and a couple that are “safe” picks where acceptance is almost guaranteed. Once you start getting offers, compare the financial aid packages to find the best deal.
Although it may be tempting to accept the lowest-price offer, that choice may not be the best solution. Your goal is to balance the reputation and impact a college makes on future career opportunities while discovering what you can afford.
Step #5: Make the Choice
After receiving all of the information from these steps, you’re ready to choose the college or university that can start your child on a path toward their eventual career.
Choosing the best college isn’t always easy. When you follow these steps, you’ll have a framework to get the process going.
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