In just a couple weeks, high school seniors across the country will be entering the school’s halls for their last year. College prospects will be the hot topic of discussion, cramming for the SATs will ensue and worrying about college tuition – well, that’s what you’re for, right? Before the process of evaluating colleges begins, there are many important discussions to have with your teen. Remind them to consider these 6 things when evaluating colleges:
What kind of degree do they need? Is your child going to college because it seems like the right thing to do, or does their future career path truly require a Bachelor or Master’s degree? Examine the careers on their wish list and find out what schooling is required. If a certificate from a specialty school plus ample field experience is what the industry calls for, don’t try to convince them that a four-year degree is required. Remember that there are high college tuition costs – and potential student loan debt – associated with getting that unnecessary degree.
Has your child thoroughly researched their major? Go through the course catalogue with them to find out what classes they’ll be taking. If they wind up questioning their commitment to that major, they’ll want to have the flexibility to transfer to other programs within the school. Research the other majors offered by the school in case this happens to your child.
3. Can you afford the college tuition? This is a trick question. You won’t know if you can afford the college tuition until you or your child files the FAFSA and receives a preliminary financial aid award package. Do not automatically assume you can’t afford a certain college based on what we call the “sticker price”. These days, college tuition is similar to a vehicle’s MSRP. It’s usually higher than you are comfortable with, it’s negotiable, and everyone might pay a little differently for the same experience.
4. Think that size doesn’t matter? Aside from opportunities to meet new people, consider other aspects of a college experience that are affected by the school’s size. Larger schools usually have a wider gap in the student-to-faculty ratio which may keep your child from getting to know his or her professors, whereas smaller schools might lack in certain resources and opportunities. What areas is your child willing to be flexible on?
5. Can they get in – and if they do, can they survive? We did research in partnership with Bentley University, and found that the ability to get admitted in the first place was the number one factor in determining whether or not a student would apply to a school. Encourage your child to be honest with his or her capabilities. This is why the concept of reach schools and safety schools exists. The goal is to find the right overall fit. Evaluate carefully what the colleges your son or daughter is considering expect of their students.
6. What are the graduation rates within 4, 5, and 6 years? This ties back into college tuition. The longer your child goes to college, the more you’re paying for it. Keep college costs low by making sure your child is on track to graduate on time – or early if possible.
There are so many other factors that come into play when figuring out which college is right for your child, but the process of shopping for college is evolving. Consider these items when evaluating the colleges your child applies for so that you can confidently determine that the college they attend fits their personality, academics, budget, career path, and future.
Brian Eberman is CEO of Avenue100 Media Solutions, which operates StudentAdvisor.com.