6 Steps to A Successful College Search
Finding the right school for the right value is a major emphasis of our college planning program. Doing the research required to get this right ahead of time can pay off in spades when it comes to reducing your college costs.
But how do you go about finding the right school for your child? Here are 6 helpful tips for conducting a successful college search.
1. Set a Budget First
Be sure to discuss with your student what college is likely to cost – both for him/her, and for you as a parent. It may not be the easiest topic to broach, but it is very important to talk honestly about this going in, and make sure all parties have a clear understanding of what you are willing to pay, what part of the cost your student will be responsible for, and what are the ramifications of student loans and other college debt.
2. Utilize Career Aptitude Tests
Before choosing a school, your student should make sure he or she has at least a good idea of what they wish to major in. Making the wrong choice here often results in changing majors, or even schools, partway through the college years, which usually leads to more years in college, and more money spent.
Career aptitude tests can be a good way to narrow down interests, and make sure your student is at least choosing an area of study (if not an exact career path) that will keep them engaged and on the right track to graduating in a reasonable time frame.
3. Research, Research, Research!
Once your student has at least an idea of their preferred course of study, have your child make a list of what is most important to him or her when looking at a college. As a parent, cost should always be near the top of your list! Your student should also consider things like size, location, type of campus (urban, suburban, etc.), and of course, majors offered.
Then, use one of the many college search tools out there, such as BigFuture from the College Board, to build an initial list of colleges that meet these criteria.
Once you’ve got an initial list, your student should do lots of research on these, using whatever resources are available, from college websites, to online reviews, to “Best College” lists. You should compare colleges both academically and financially, and remember to consider factors like acceptance rates, retention, graduation rates, job placement rates, etc.
4. Visit Campuses
Now that your student has an idea of what they want to major in, and a solid shortlist of schools (5-8 is ideal), you should start scheduling some campus visits. You may want to start with the ones closest to home, and work your way outwards. This will give your student a better idea of what type of campus they really like, and give them a good feel for whether they would be comfortable there.
Have a list of questions prepared to ask on these visits, and try to give your student the opportunity to speak with some students on campus while you are there.
5. Be Open to Opportunities
When conducting research, your student may discover colleges you (or they) may not have previously considered. Be willing to explore opportunities to expand your student’s horizons, and let them take the lead in the search.
Don’t just focus on colleges close to home (unless that is a top factor of importance for your student). Some colleges outside of the U.S., for example, can offer great bargains to American students – as well as the invaluable experience of learning a new environment and culture! If this is of interest to your child, StudentAid.ed.gov has a list of International colleges that participate in the Federal student loan program.
6. Help Colleges Find You
Colleges are always looking for qualified applicants. By registering and recording preferences on school match sites such as Cappex, colleges can connect with prospective students that match their qualifications. Who knows, the perfect school may just find you! Just don’t put all your eggs in this basket – be sure your student is also being proactive and focusing on the previous tips above.
These steps can help your student create a great school list, and narrow down his or her choices to have a better chance of finding and getting into the school of his or her dreams.
If you need help with any of the steps in this process, we do it all – and we have lots of helpful resources at our fingertips to make the whole process a lot easier for your family! Feel free to contact us anytime at 614-536-0246 to schedule a free consultation with one of our college planning advisors.
(Photo Credit: By Unifiesb (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)