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College Decisions Are In—Which College Should I Go To?

Which college should I go to?

By now, parents and students can breath a sigh of relief. Decision letters are pouring in, invitations to admitted student visit days are trailing close behind, and financial aid packages are being processed and sent out to families throughout the country. So now that your son or daughter has formally been accepted, what are the next steps that you should take?

Your teenager is wondering, “Which college should I go to?” The following 5 tips will help families make an informed decision on where to go to college.

1. MAP IT OUT

Schedule a family meeting. Take every acceptance letter and create piles for each school. Add any additional information to each pile, like merit scholarship awards and financial aid packages. Make a list of any outside scholarships. (Outside scholarships include those awarded by your local and national community and/or charitable organizations.)

Now you can start the calculations. Look at costs: tuition, room and board, travel expenses, books, spending money, meal plans, and any additional fees. Factor in any scholarships or financial aid. Having a calculator on hand, figure the cost that your child (or you) will be responsible to pay in order for them to attend each institution. Also, consider the amount of loans that you or your student will need to repay and weigh the pros and cons of that burden. Record the costs per each school and set this aside for now. Click here for an excellent resource to help figure out net cost.

2. VISIT

Schedule a visit to schools that are in the running. Most colleges have Admitted Student Visit Days which afford students the opportunity to learn more about the school, meet professors, meet fellow admits, and get a better feel for campus. I highly recommend that students attend these events if they are seriously considering attending that particular institution. Make the most of your visit. Check out the surrounding town, have a few meals in the dining hall, chat with current students on campus, sit in on a class, and meet with the department that your child is considering majoring in.

3. STUDENT RESOURCES

Are there internship opportunities or a career services department available for students on campus? How about study abroad opportunities? Go to the alumni office—where have alums gone after graduating? What is the graduation rate? How about Health Services? Are there programs in place to help stressed out college kids? What are the statistics for campus safety?

4. WEIGH IT OUT

Now that you’ve completed the research, create a list of pros and cons for of each school. Is the top choice within your budget? How was the vibe on campus? Did your son or daughter feel like he or she fit in? Is the campus safe and inclusive? Are there resources to if they need help getting a job, are stressed out, or are looking to change majors?

Once you come to a decision, make sure to pay the enrollment deposit in order to secure your son or daughter’s spot. Enrollment deposits are typically due by May 1.

5. HOW TO HANDLE REJECTION LETTERS

For the majority of high school seniors, there are moments of disappointment. College is competitive; there is no doubt about it. If your son or daughter did not make the cut, there may still be options out there. Do they really have their heart set on attending a school they were not admitted to? I encourage the student (not the parent), to call the admissions office and discuss their options. What will it take to transfer in after a year? Would be it be helpful for the student to take a PG (post graduate) year, or attend college elsewhere and reapply as a transfer student? By having the student contact the admissions office this will demonstrate maturity and genuine interest.

College is an emotional, huge decision. You are worried and your child is wondering, “Which college should I go to?” Well, it is a time for your child to get inspired and take on the world. Trust that he or she will make the right decision.

Good luck!

Jamie Brown-Kennedy, MA

Jamie Brown-Kennedy is a former Assistant Director of Admission at different public and private universities around the US.