Parenting: How to Help Your Child Pick the Right College


High school is said to be the "best years of our lives," and in many aspects it is. It is the time when a person begins to separate their identity from that of their parents. Your teen is learning what it means to be an adult. They are involved in multiple clubs or activities while working at the local ice cream shop, which are teaching your teen the beginnings of time management.

After all the papers, tests, and school dances are finished, the true purpose of high school is revealed: getting into college. These days there are many routes to go after graduation. Your high school student is most likely worried about which direction to go. They're worried they will make a wrong decision that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. While the decision of which college to go to is an important one, it is not a "live or die" decision.

Areas of Study

When deciding what college to attend, it is important to look at all aspects of the college life, not just the course load. What is your student interested in? Although all colleges tend to have the same majors, the strength of those majors changes from school to school. Another aspect to consider is the size of the campus.

Campus Size

To get a great freshman experience where your student builds relationships with professors, administrators, and other students, I would go with a smaller campus. Perhaps one that has less than 10,000 students compared to one with double or triple the number of students. In a smaller campus, your student has a greater chance of having a stronger network around them to lead to their success. A smaller campus also makes it much easier for a freshman student to get involved in clubs or activities that will teach them skills they may not learn in the classroom.

College Strengths and Weaknesses

Another great tool is to ask college students from your neighborhood what they liked about their college, what they found helpful, and what made them choose that college. My parents have had two daughters navigate through the college application process and get into great colleges. For myself, I have attended 4 colleges in the state of Utah. They all have great things about them but they are each different. One was great for the freshman experience, two for trying to figure out what I wanted to study, and the one for great networking opportunities outside of the college realm. Having your teen interview current college students is a great way to learn about the school and hopefully decrease the stress.

Ask the Right Questions

One thing my sister did was start looking at colleges in junior high. She knew she wanted to go to a top college, so she called their admissions office and asked what they look for in the students. What do their grades need to be? How could set herself apart from other students? Taking control of the decision will give your teen the power to make an informed decision they want, not the one they feel they have to make.

Did you go to college? How did you decide what school to attend?

Cover photo courtesy of Flickr

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