We can’t resist reading them in the mall parking lots and driving down the highway. Sometimes we even comment on the litany of high profile names plastered on rear windshields. You know what I am talking about—those college stickers on the back of cars!
Too often families get wrapped up in name brand schools. My job as an independent college counselor is to identify good fit colleges for my students. I remind parents and students that the right match college meets a student’s criteria in three major areas: academically, socially and financially.
- Majors and Programs If you know your area of academic interest you should focus on finding schools that offer these programs. This is especially important if you want to purse professional fields such as nursing, engineering, and teaching. If you do not know your area of interest, don’t worry! Most students begin their college careers undecided.
- Academic Environment What is the average class size? Are classes mostly discussion based or lecture style? Are students collaborative or competitive? Is the student body as a whole intellectually curious, politically driven or laid-back?
- Experiential Learning Applying lessons learned inside the classroom through though hands-on experiences in the real world is valuable. Experiential learning may include co-ops, internships, research, study abroad and/or service learning. Investigate the opportunities offered and understand their scope and limitations.
- Academic Support Services If you have a learning difference and/or ADHD, understand your academic support needs before looking at colleges. Talk to the college’s academic services department to see if the college has the staff and resources needed to accommodate your disability.
- Size and Location Determine what size (small, medium or large) college and location (rural, suburban or city) feels comfortable to you. What does the surrounding area offer? Do students take advantage of the city/town?
- Residential or Commuter Much of a college’s social scene happens on the weekends and in the dorms. If you want a residential college experience, know what percent of students generally reside on campus on the weekends.
- Greek Life At some colleges the Greek life drives the social scene. Is this something you want to be a part of? If not, will being independent limit your social life? Are members required to live in sorority and fraternity houses?
- Big Athletics Game day at some colleges and universities is an event! (Pun intended!) Tailgating, pep rallies and halftime shows heighten campus unity and school spirit. Is this important to your college experience?
- Activities and Clubs Determine whether the clubs and activities you are interested in pursuing are active and well attended on campus. Investigate how students can get involved (audition, apply or just show up).
- Sticker Price College is expensive! Most families are unaware that a large percentage of students will not be paying the total published price of tuition, room and board. Private colleges and universities may end up costing less than state universities.
- Merit Aid Ask about merit aid scholarships (gift money that does not need to be paid back). Learn what percent of students receive merit aid and what are the criteria.
- Need-based Financial Aid Ask whether colleges meet full-demonstrated need? If not, how much is the average gap? What is the average financial aid package?
If you are a high school senior and found your right fit college, congratulations! Buy the college decal and put it on the rear windshield. Be proud of your choice! HS sophomores or juniors, now is the time to contact Admissions on Track for help with the college search and application process.
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