Picking a college is one of the most stressful decisions a student can make. That stress is often shared by well-meaning parents who just want to make sure their child is happy with the decision they make.
Here are some tips for helping your senior find a university that fits their needs:
Encourage them to apply early for the "dream schools."
Some students know by their sophomore years what colleges they want to attend. They get a gut feeling they can't shake by the time senior year rolls around. Rather than encouraging them to look at other colleges first, have them apply as early as possible! Early admission allows students to plan ahead if they get accepted. (Don't worry: they'll still get the excitement of celebrating their Decision Day along with the rest of their class!)
Avoid pressuring them towards your alma mater.
Choosing a college is stressful enough, but pushing a student toward a school they might not be interested in only compounds that stress. It might sound great to say that multiple generations of your family have attended the same university. However, it can complicate things for your child down the road if they don't feel fulfilled or challenged at your alma mater midway through their college career.
Take a hard look at itemized costs and expenses.
In-state tuitions can run as high as $10,000 per year. Out-of-state tuitions typically double the in-state figures — and that's just tuition. Room and board, books, and transportation all add to a higher sticker price to college than most students expect. Help your child figure out a reasonable estimate for their top schools. Look up the cost of living in those cities, discuss travel, and read blogs of current university students to get a feel for realistic books and housing costs. Your kid might not enjoy playing this numbers game, but they can thank you later when they have lower student loan debt than their peers.
Compare financial aid opportunities.
College is a sizable investment, and not every family can pay the sticker price. Students should consider what scholarships look like between schools. A lot of competitive private institutions won't offer much financial aid with a few exceptions. Smaller private schools, public schools or specialty colleges, however, can offer plenty of scholarships — even full-ride scholarship opportunities.
Evaluate more than a college's reputation.
Most career experts agree: a college's reputation doesn't matter nearly as much as what a student did during those college years. Even a name like Harvard doesn't hold as much weight as a well-rounded student who produced research or studied abroad from a 'lesser' university. Encourage your senior to think beyond the brand association with a school. Does it offer the extracurricular activities that matter to them? Does it have the campus diversity they want? Will they be able to grow as a leader in a variety of opportunities? No matter how prestigious the school, a lack of opportunities can stifle even the brightest student.
Remind them that there is no one "perfect" school.
Every child is different; Trinity Prep prides itself on a diverse campus full of passionate students. Those differences should be celebrated, and students need to be reminded that those differences might lead them to colleges away from their peers. The "perfect" school for a student is one that's affordable, meets their needs, feeds their curiosity, and inspires them to transform their passions into a career.
At Trinity Prep, we develop students who excel in college and beyond. We aim to equip our campus with the resources they need to contribute to a university community and challenge themselves to explore their fullest potential. We also want to serve as resources for parents who might not know how to help their students with the admissions process. Students in the classes of 2017-2019 were offered over $40 million in merit and athletic scholarships to a variety of universities.
Interested in how we can help your student prepare for college? We offer a variety of college-counseling services for both students and parents — from our College Night to navigating College Board readiness tests.