It’s amazing that sheer children…you know the ones that think a perfect day means sleeping until 2pm – only to wake up and play videogames or chat on Facebook for the rest of the day, are considered qualified to choose colleges for themselves. Really, they can barely pick out clothes suitable for public. Yet, you hear parents of these mixed up, hormonal, almost adult folk constantly referring to a college as ‘the one their child WANTS to attend.’ The stone cold truth is that when wondering what to consider when choosing an online college, such as UoP, or a campus based university, such as ASU, there is lots more to think about than just what a child wants. And aside from those moms and dads who have albeit pledged their life to their own alma mater and feel super strongly that their children should follow in those academic footprints; choosing college is a mixture of understanding your choices and balancing them with your needs (and perhaps a little bit of your child’s wants).
Before we begin, let’s preface this with one fact! Parents should and must be the ultimate deciders when it comes to choosing a college! If your child wants to be a loud, proud Gator at the University of Florida, but have barely scathed by their senior year in high school, parents SHOULD and MUST take steps BEFORE simply writing the enormous check for a semester out of state.
The decision of what college to go to is a hard one. And while your teen may feel strongly that they know what they want to do for their rest of their life, you have to ensure that you keep their options open for them. (Even when they don’t think it’s necessary) Choosing the right college, can do just that. Consider that very few kids going off to college have one iota of life experience, and that gaining that insight is part of the collegiate experience.
So, what do you consider before choosing a college? Here are the top five things parents and students must discuss and investigate!
First of all, academics. Of all the things to consider when choosing college, this is perhaps the most important. Not every student is a straight A student. And not all colleges are going to accept your bright, instrument playing C student. This means if your child wants to become an engineer, they might not have the academic resume to get into the school of their dreams. And this is okay! In fact, starting out with core classes at a local or community college so they can repair their high school academic history can be one of the smartest things your teen does. If they are disappointed about this, explain to them that they have to build academic credibility with you, and with the school of their choosing. This allows them to shoulder the responsibility of their academic success and might be the catalyst to get them motivated.
Also, when it comes to academics make sure that your child has access to a broad liberal arts curriculum. Why? This helps to expose them to so many things, and gives them new opportunities and choices that can help them more clearly define their talents and life choices professionally.
Location is also important and should come in right below the academics on the list of things to consider. Know your child. Will they perform well without your watchful, nagging eye? Are they ready to move away from home and do they have the tools to succeed at this point in their life without mom or dad? Many college students aren’t ready to take the plunge and move away right after high school. This can be a motivating factor in keeping them home for their freshman year so that they can gain some autonomy and earn your trust. Plus, with each year, they grow wiser and more mature, waiting one year before sending them cross-country isn’t going to be the end of the world.
Of course, cost is a consideration. Yes, there are all sorts of student loans and financing options available. Yet, parents and students need to be realistic about college costs. If you cannot afford to send them to an out of state, NCAA University or abroad – then you cannot afford it. This is a good time investigate scholarships, learn the price differences available by choosing in-state school and give your kids some goals. It is often easier for transfer students to gain academic scholarships, once they have proven themselves in college FIRST! You have to consider the costs not just of tuition, but of books, housing, meals, and other extra fees as well. The truth is that you can find a college that is affordable. It might not be the one that your child dreamt of, but unless they are willing to take on the student loans, you are better off staying realistic. (Don’t forget to check on site with the campus administrator for financing options that may not be advertised through means of regular enrollment).
Every collegiate atmosphere is different. It is very important that parents and students take the time to personally visit campuses of the colleges they are interested in. Is the student body diverse? Do there seem to be a lot of supportive resources for your child once they are there? The educational experience is much more than just taking classes and partying with friends. There is a lot to be gained from getting hands on feel for the college atmosphere and ascertaining how well (or unwell) your child will fit in there. Some kids do better in small, tight knit atmospheres while others may thrive in facilities with huge student bodies. When you do visit a college campus, make sure to check out the bulletin boards located throughout the campus, peak at the cafeteria, and try to get a good feel for the attitude of the students that are there. It might even be a good idea to talk to some of these students to see what their take on the college is.
The last thing that parents and potential students should investigate in what to consider when looking for a college, is reputation and networking potential. Obviously, holding a degree from a well-known university or specialty school is going to land your foot in the door more quickly than one from a community sector facility. However, it is important to do a thorough check of the schools reputation – which includes the background and qualifications of the professors. The reason you send your child to college is to help them get a great job, doing work they love while earning living. The reputation of a school, even a small one – can be enough for potential employers to want to give your child a change. Additionally, being able to network with other people while you attend school, can help you later in life. As we all learn at some point, playing the ‘ho do you know’ game, can definitely be a good thing and many colleges based on reputation, and the contacts your child will make – can do just that.
Secondary education is very important,it does not matter if youget your mba degree online, go to a college, university or trade trade school, theykey is furthering your knowledge. When parents and children can work together and discuss the options and opportunity that exist, the decision can be easier. Look for helpful resources in your child’s high school, meet with a graduation coach, and begin exploring colleges long before your child’s senior year. It’s true, your child may not know exactly what they want to be when they grow up, but providing an education is the most important thing parents can do for their children.