How to Help Your Teen Find the Right College that Fits Their Needs
Choosing the right university for a college experience can be a stressful time. Students and parents alike are plagued with decisions and deadlines. While school colors and mascots are fun to base an outfit around, they’re things students shouldn’t base their college decisions on. Understanding your student’s priorities can help you point them in the right direction.
Finding your teen’s home away from home for the next four years doesn’t have to be hard. This article will help set your teen up for college-decision-making success. Here are a few things to consider when helping your student find the perfect school.
Visit Campus Together
Odds are your students are going to be spending at least the next four years living on campus. Many universities have first and second year on-campus living requirements. It’s important to see the dorms and facilities firsthand. Scheduling a campus tour is a great way to view the dorms, and understand the campus layout.
Visiting campus can provide you with the opportunity to tour the dining halls. While you’re there, stop by the academic buildings or the student center. Talk with students and ask about their classes. If you plan your visit on the day of an athletic event, you’ll be able to really feel the school spirit.
View Study Abroad Options
Studying abroad can sound like a scary topic to most parents. However, colleges typically have multiple ways to get abroad. Short-term alternative spring breaks, semester coursework, and summer internships are usually a few options that colleges provide. Parents typically are the ones with the most hesitation when discussing studying abroad. Financial and safety reasons are often at the front of mind.
So, why do it? The skills your student will gain going abroad are unique compared to experiences they will have in the U.S. Students can learn new languages and cultures. They will develop confidence in themselves by learning how to get around in a new country. If your teen wants to see the world, target a university that has a robust study abroad program.
Ask About Involvement Opportunities
Has your student been involved in sports and clubs in high school? If yes, they should continue their involvement. If not, they should come to college ready to get involved. Not only does getting involved look good on your student’s resume, but it’s a great place to meet new friends.
Things like fraternity and sorority life, clubs, and professional organizations may be the highlight of your student’s college experience. On the other hand, they may be more interested in playing an instrument or finding a studio where they can paint. Colleges often have intramural sports for students missing the thrill of the game. Finding out if your teen’s future college has activities or organizations they’re interested in can be a deciding factor.
Discuss Choosing an Academic Major
Sometimes students enter college knowing exactly what they want to do. Or, at least exactly what they don’t. Your teen should target colleges with academic majors of their liking. Similarly, if your teen is undecided, encourage them to go to a college with multiple programs that sound interesting to them. A musically inclined student thinking about being an education or theater major probably shouldn’t be targeting engineering-specific schools.
If your student is having a hard time figuring out what they want to major in, that’s okay. Many colleges have robust support for first year students, which can help them find their passions and declare a major. You should encourage your teen to set a meeting with their admissions counselor to talk through potential majors. They may even have them chat with a faculty member.
Prioritize Rigorous Education and Support
Do you learn best by doing? Your student probably does too. Academic rigor can show up in a variety of ways. High-impact practices (HIPs) like service learning, research, and internships are a vital part of your teen’s future education. HIPs provide outstanding learning opportunities for students and the ability to learn while doing.
Ensuring that your student is getting remarkable support is vital to their success. With a rigorous education comes the need for great support staff. Find out what your child needs to succeed and see if their prospective college offers that. If you’ve always edited their essays, look for a writing center. If you know your child struggles with math, ask about tutors. Part of the decision process is understanding what is available to your student for when there is a need.
Understand Financial Needs
Understanding your family’s financial situation can help your teen make a responsible college choice. Discuss whether or not they will need to pay for college. If they do, discuss jobs and other ways to pay tuition. If your student is eligible for financial aid, be sure to encourage them to apply. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be filled out starting October 1. Scholarships, grants, and loan options also all have their own deadlines to apply.
Comparing school aid offers is an easy way to help make a smart college choice. If your student has a few colleges in mind, but you aren’t sure how you’re going to pay for it, meet with a financial aid counselor. Universities have financial aid offices that are typically helpful in creating a payment plan and determining loan needs.
Choosing the right college is a bit like putting together a puzzle. Every piece is important, and eventually they’ll all fit. Finding the right university for your teen may be time consuming and financially draining. But there’s a special feeling that comes from sending your new college student off ready and excited for freshman move in. Your teen will value your support along the way.