Practical tips to helping your child choose college

Choosing the right college is a big decision for both you and your teen student. As he or she graduates from high school and moves on to the next level of education, it’s important to find the right school and program. This will save a great deal of time, money, and headaches for both of you. It won’t be easy, of course. There are countless schools available and all of them have their own ups and downs. However, if you and your teen know what to look for and go about the process in the right way, you can make it easier.

First, try to hone in on what exactly your teen is looking for. Every school has its particular specialties, and each program within the college or university will have its own strengths and weaknesses. The best way to go about choosing a school is to know exactly what the student wants. If you can refine the search to one or two possible major programs, the ordeal will become much easier.

Once you and your teen have some ideas in mind, you can start researching particular schools to find out where the best programs are available. The results may surprise you. Often, the bigger and more prestigious universities are not the best choice. Smaller schools have the advantage of a more personal education experience in which the students are able to make connections with their professors that will enhance the learning experience. Check out the faculty in your target programs as well. Look into their credentials and publications. The best way to learn is to learn from the best.

It may be best to check out local schools before going cross country. One of the biggest advantages of local schooling is that your teen will likely get significantly discounted tuition. Out of state students pay more at public and state universities, so a program at UCLA will cost much less for locals than it will for transplants. Your teen may also be able to forego dorm living if you choose a local school, which will further reduce expenses. Finally, shopping for schools locally gives you and your teen an easy opportunity to actually visit the campus. This can be a major deciding factor in the college search.

There are other things to consider as well. Are you and your teen interested in extracurricular clubs and activities? If the student is an athlete, finding a college with a good team in his or her sport may be important. Opportunities for studying abroad should be considered as well. And what about the next level of education? If your teen intends to go for a classroom master’s in the arts or an online MBA, you may want to explore options for higher level education at your prospective universities.

The ideal college will often be a compromise, so don’t be disappointed if you can’t find everything that your teen is looking for in one place. As with any kind of shopping, you need to find the best solution–and it may not be perfect. The bottom line is that a student can get a degree anywhere, but the important thing is to make it a worthwhile experience.


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