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Choosing a College

How Do I Help My Child Pick A College?

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By Ian Parker on April, 18 2022 | 3 minute read

Well, this is it – or, as the mom of one of my students told me the other day, “That’s a wrap!” For most high school seniors, applications have been submitted, admission decisions have been made, and there remains only one task: to make the final choice. Where will your child be this September?

As with most topics in college admission, this is a nuanced discussion, but having seen more than a hundred students through this process, I know the benefits that come from asking yourself a few key questions.

First, understand that your child may still be feeling the disappointment or frustration that often comes with college applications. That’s normal – it’s eminently human to compare ourselves to others who were admitted to their favorite colleges, or to mourn an imagined life at a college we were not admitted to.

Related: How Parents Can Help When A College Says No

The best thing parents can do is to honor that process, while still putting your child’s opportunities into context. Students who applied to a well-balanced mix of colleges that are right for them (parents of juniors, see our advice on that here!) have good news – they were likely accepted to a college that wanted them and where they will thrive for the next four years.

Once your student has gotten past the college that didn’t see thir potential in favor of the ones that did, the fun can begin. My best advice is to go back to first principles. Why did they apply to this college in the first place? (FYI: “Because it was a safety” is not a good answer – there were hundreds of colleges that fell into that category.) What clubs, professors, or opportunities exist at each of these amazing places? Long story short: let’s get excited about these schools again.

Of course, that’s not the end of the story. For almost every family, college is the largest investment they will make other than their house. It’s worth it to think through which institution is the smartest place to put your money. That doesn’t mean you should automatically pick the lowest-cost college or that you shouldn’t take out loans (I generally think the federally subsidized loans, which max out at $27,000 for four years and which don’t accrue interest until graduation, are really smart choices for many families).

Rather, that means sitting down as a family (that means your child should join) to discuss the long-term implications of each of these finalists. What will repayment look like five years from now? How much debt will your student take on and how much will you be responsible for? Is the higher-cost option actually worth the investment? Approach this decision with clear eyes: you will be paying for it potentially years down the road.

Finally, don’t be afraid to seek out more information. Parents, encourage your child to continue their research. They can try calling the admission offices of their top 2-3 choices to see if they can speak to a current student; they can review the current research being published by professors at those institutions to see if it aligns with their interests; they can attend admitted students’ days or take one more virtual tour to make sure they can envision themselves at each college.

Related: College Visits When You're Deciding Where To Apply

Being admitted is not the end of your child’s story – it’s the beginning. You can help them take the next step by encouraging them to be the same curious, interesting, entrepreneurial student they were when they applied. Enjoy it!

About Us: With more than twenty years of experience, Collegewise counselors and tutors are at the forefront of the ever-evolving admissions landscape. Our work has always centered on you: the student. And just like we’ve always done, we look for ways for you to be your best self - whether it’s in the classroom, in your applications or in the right-fit college environment. Our range of tools include counselingtest prepacademic tutoring, and essay management, all with the support of our proprietary platform, leading to a 4x higher than average admissions rates. 

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