College acceptances are arriving. You and your teen have already narrowed down your “favorites” list using standard factors such as location, size, cost and other preferences. So, how do you make a final choice? Here are some of the discussion points that my clients and I found helpful when we struggled with our own teens to make this decision.
Student says: “I’ll just go to the most prestigious school that I get into.” This would seem to be an easy conclusion, but sometimes the most elite school isn’t the best choice. Is another school offering the student a seat in its honors program or a special scholarship? Does it have a well-regarded program in your teen’s potential major? Would the financial demands of the “better” school preclude paying for study abroad or other “extras”?
Student says: “When we visited the campus, the students seemed too weird, nerdy, arty” (fill in the adjective of your choice). Another version of this sentiment: “I just didn’t like it there.” When my son made critical comments about a school we’d visited, I was tempted to disagree with him. But then I reflected on our trip. The kids we met were very different from him and his friends. He probably wouldn’t have fit in very well, and he knew it. He likes the campus he now lives on, and it’s a lot different from the one he’d criticized. This is one case where trusting your teen’s “vibes and intuition” could be the best course of action.
Student says: “The school was too small/large/rural/urban/conservative/liberal” (fill in the adjective of your choice). This might be an opportunity for a little more research. For example, do students at Large U. build a sense of community through common-interest dorms? Is the conservative label accurate, or are there many diverse student groups on campus? Can you easily take a short shuttle ride from Small U. to a nearby town? Some web research, discussion with current students, or maybe even a closer look at the school’s website could answer these types of questions.