Parent and Student Focus During the College Search
So much of what parents and students seem to be focused on during the college search process these days is the reputation of the school. As such, they go about the admissions process as if it is a contest to be won, and by winning they have the privilege of (as an admissions counselor who spoke at my daughter’s school so aptly stated) putting that sticker on the rear window of the car.
While we all know that it is certainly important for our kids to find a school that meets their academic goals and interests, we need to make sure that we guide them correctly and ensure that they look at schools from a somewhat broader perspective.
Simply put, helping them find the right fit means taking the time for researching and visiting campuses so ultimately they are applying to those colleges or universities that meet not only their academic needs but also fit their personality type, extracurricular and social interests.
Naturally, in preparation for deciding which schools meet your teen’s initial criteria, it makes the most sense to begin by putting together a list of schools that have those courses (and majors) that your teen is interested in. Once that is done, the list will need to be narrowed down.
Start With a Questionnaire
I have found that the best way to do this is to use a questionnaire that asks some simple questions about each teens interests and high school background, as well as those that require them to reflect a bit about their personality traits and how they see themselves fitting into a variety of academic, social, and living situations. By answering these questions we (and the students themselves) will gain some invaluable insight into who they are and where they might feel most comfortable. From there, you can put together a more detailed list of criteria. Then, as you and your teen peruse the printed materials, college websites, college-related blogs, and college guides, you will all get a better sense of which schools may meet those criteria.
Time to Visit Colleges
Then it’s time to visit. A well-planned itinerary will allow you and your teen enough time on each college campus to get a feel for both the academic environment and the student life. Make every opportunity to gather as much information as possible during your visit in addition to the scheduled campus tours and information sessions, it is helpful to try to arrange meetings with professors or department heads in areas of interest to your teen.
As you go through the process, you may find that what you or your teen thought would be a first-choice school is not the right fit at all. Let’s take the case of a student who wants to pursue his interest in music. For years, he may have had his sights set on Juilliard, one of the top-performing arts schools in the country. Yet after a recent trip to Manhattan, he realizes that he does not want to attend college in a large city. In this case, it doesn’t matter how good the program is the school is not the best fit for him. There are plenty of schools to choose from that will more closely meet his particular criteria.
The Bottom Line
Bottom line: regardless of whether you enlist the help of a college consultant or work through the process on your own, keep in mind it’s all about digging deep and helping your teens to get to know themselves in order to find the right fit, and while the school they ultimately choose to attend may not be the one that everyone’s heard of, they will be in the right environment to thrive.