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5 ways to pick the best college for you

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Oct 23, 2014 9:10:00 AM

Yikes! It is almost time to start sending in your college applications and you've likely narrowed down your list a lot by now. Ideally, you want to apply to six to eight schools, so if you have more than that on your list, you still have some decisions to make.

So, how do you know which school is best for you? We suggest you start by asking yourself these questions. 

1. How does the school make you feel? 

It is easy to get wooed by a beautiful campus and forget that the most important part of college is the education that you receive. But you also shouldn't underestimate the power of how you feel on a particular college campus. If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, that could be a sign it is not the right fit for you. Transferring schools, or simple dropping out, can be very costly and is not a good move. So, if you are just getting a bad feeling about being at a school (and we don't mean it just isn't as pretty or has as many services as your top choice!) then you may want to reconsider applying. 

2. Do you know what you want to be when you "grow up"? 

You are probably entirely sick of this question and there is certainly a lot of merit in the fact that it is really hard to know what you want to do for life when you are just 17 or 18 years old. To make matters more complicated, data has shown that adults may go through as many as seven careers in a lifetime. Seven! (For full details, we recommending reading this article from the Wall Street Journal). So, if you strongly want to be a doctor, or lawyer, architect, engineer, or pharmacist, your college list might be easier to narrow. If the school doesn't offer a major related to that field, then it is a no go. But if you have no clue what you want to do, or you have an idea but you want to test it out, make sure the college offers a vast variety of major choices that fit into a lot of career paths so you have an option to change tracks if you find out the path you considered taking wasn't a good fit.

3. What services does the school offer and what services do you need?

If you have a learning disability, medical problem, or need counseling, make sure the school offer services to accommodate you. Staying healthy, both physically and mentally, will help you be successful in college, and receiving the advising and tutoring you need may be vital to your college completion depending on your personal situation. If you have some particular need, make sure the school can help you or reconsider sending in your application. 

4. How big is the college and where is it located? 

Do you get homesick when you are away from your family? How do you feel when you roam through a big city? Nervous and tense? Energized and excited? Do you like lots of personal connections or do you prefer being lost anonymously in a crowd? Answers to these questions can determine if you should remove any colleges from your list based on how far they are from your home, how many students they have, and whether they are located in the city or rural town.

5. How much can your family afford?

How much can your family afford for college? Students hate this question because it's one they feel like can really spoil their dreams. But keep in mind you don't need to be narrowing down schools from your list because the sticker price is too high. For each school you are considering, seek out the "Net Price Calculator". Each college is required to have one and if are having trouble locating it online, contact the financial aid office and they will point you to it. The Net Price Calculator gives you an estimate of what a family like yours might have to pay at that particular school, based on how much aid they typically award to a family with income and assets similar to yours.

It is just an estimate, so if a school is your complete dream school and it seems like it won't be affordable based on your entries into the calculator, you may still want to apply. But apply to that school with a realistic view that if your award comes back and the school is too expensive, you will have to make a tough choice. Have an earnest discussion with your parents about what their limit is for paying for school - including borrowing - and go from there.

You can also take a look at RISLA's How much can I afford calculator to help you determine what kind of student loan payments might be reasonable for you based on the career you are planning to pursue. If you are considering many different career paths, don't borrow more than 1/4 of the lowest estimate the calculator gives you. (The borrowing estimates are for all four years!)

Click here for a full list of factors to consider during your college search.

Topics: Borrowing for College

9 steps to nailing your college essay

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Oct 19, 2014 10:26:00 AM

College planning is stressful. It's hard to decide where to apply, you want to make sure your application is just perfect, and you may even have to meet face-to-face with a college representative for an admissions interview. iStock_000020087802Small

But nothing seems to get high school seniors in as much of a frenzy as the college essay. 

The college essay is a big part of your application. It is your one and maybe only chance to show the admissions team your personality, how you will fit into the campus culture, and what makes you unique. To top it off, there are so many ways to approach your college essay. Do you want to write about a big accomplishment? A struggle? An experience or a failure? 

There are definitely some common themes to college essays. Admissions officers are used to that. The idea is that even if you are writing about something that others may be writing about, you need to do it in your own voice and cite specific examples in your life that gives your story substance. 

Following these nine tips will help you get your college essay off to a great start:

1. Brainstorm as much as you write. 

Don't pick up a pen (or computer, more likely!) until you have really thought about what you want to tell the college about yourself. Having trouble coming up with something? Talk to people about like trusted school advisors, close friends and your family, and ask them what they think is your greatest personality trait. 

2. Choose a theme. 

Don't try to cover everything about yourself in your college essay. Don't re-create a list of your activities and accomplishments - that is already in your college application. Think about your best personal trait, your interests, values and goals. Focus on one of these qualities and make it the theme of your essay

2. Use imagery and examples. 

Not everyone is a professional-quality writer, but adding examples and imagery to your story will help put the reader in your shoes. Instead of saying, "it was a great day," describe what about it was a great - "the day was filled with energy, cheer and crisp fall leaves." Be vivid. 

3. Be genuine. 

Never, ever, ever, let anyone else write your essay for you. Be yourself, let your personality shine and be authentic. Tell an honest account of your story. 

4. Let it flow. 

Disregard grammar, vocabulary, and structure when writing your first draft (but only your first draft!). Instead, let your ideas flow naturally. Jot down everything you can think of that helps demonstrate your point. Later, you can go back and edit to make sure your essay is clearly communicated, properly punctuated, and filled with flowing prose. 

5. Edit and proofread, edit and proofread. 

Once you have your ideas and thoughts on paper, now is the time to edit, proofread, edit, proofread, edit, and proofread. Get the point? Read your essay more times than you think you need to. Think about the structure of every sentence. Could it be phrased in a better way? Run spell check, grammar check, and have others read it looking for errors. 

6. Be clear, concise, and direct. 

Stick within the limits outlined on your college application. If there is no specific limit, keep your essay around 500 words. Make sure every word counts, get to your point right away, and leave out information that isn't relevant. Remember, admissions officers have to read stacks of these, and you don't want to frustrate them by submitting an epic essay. 

7. Give it structure. 

Make sure you have a clear introduction, body, and closing to your essay. Make the theme of your essay clear in the introduction and reiterate it in your closing. 

8. Accentuate the positive. 

Students often choose to write about painful experiences. That's okay, but remember to accentuate what you gained from that experience. 

9. Get feedback.

Have others read your essay. Ask them what they learned about you from the essay. Did you get your point across? If not, rethink your examples and make some edits. 


Want some other great college planning tips? Download the College Planning Guide and sign up for emails guiding you through the whole process. 

Preparing for a college interview

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Oct 14, 2014 11:30:00 AM

Not all colleges require an interview for admissions, but it is often a good idea to schedule one even if it is optional. You may be nervous, but an interview gives you an opportunity to show the college your personality, and let's you tell them first hand why you think you are a good fit for the college. iStock_Interview_9969660

The best way to prepare for an interview is to have an idea of what the college will ask you and figure out how you will answer those questions. You don't want to seem too rehearsed. Be yourself and be natural! But know examples you can use from your life to demonstrate your point and have a good idea of your overall approach to each question. 

Here are some common questions asked during the college interview:

  1. How do you like your high school? What has been the most positive experience you
    have had? The most negative? What would you change about your high school?
  2. What is your role in the school community?
  3. What would your teachers say about you as a person? As a student?
  4. What is the most significant contribution you have made to your school?
  5. What are you looking for in a college? How did you become interested in this college/university
  6. What are some of your goals for the future? Personal? Professional?
  7. Tell me about a particular class or assignment in which you found yourself most intellectually stimulated.
  8. What is your reason for participating in athletics (or student government, or the newspaper, etc.)? What are the benefits?
  9. How and in what ways do you expect, plan and hope to transfer your secondary school contributions, achievements and activities to the college level?
  10. What has been your favorite subject in high school? Why?
  11. What might you study in college?
  12. What events, if any, would you deem critical in your life thus far?
  13. Who has most influenced you?
  14. How have you spent your summers?
  15. How would you describe yourself as a person?
  16. Have you ever thought of not going to college? What would you do?
  17. How do you spend your free time?
  18. Why do you think you are a good match for this college?
  19. Many qualified students apply to our school. What characteristics single you out from others?
  20. Do you have any questions? (Have some in mind.)

Despite all of the questions you may be asked, a college admissions interview is often led by the student. You should be prepared with a list of questions that you want to ask as well. Really think about why the college interests you, and be prepared to tell your interviewer about that. Having a list of questions shows the college you are truly interested and you really want to learn more. However, try to keep your questions to things that you can't easily find the answers to on the college website. The following are some example questions you could ask:

  1. What kind of students do you think are happiest here? Which ones are the least happy?
  2. What do you think are the greatest challenges of this college? What do students complain about?
  3. How large are your classes?
  4. How does admissions use test scores to determine if I am a good fit for the college? 
  5. Who teaches the courses (graduate assistants or professors) and why?
  6. What is the school's philosophy about it's core curriculum? How restrictive is it?
  7. How adequate is the library? Are you able to get the books you need when you want them?
  8. When do you have to declare your major? What are the most popular majors? Why? 
  9. Tell me about housing. Are some dorms much better than others? How are rooms chosen (by seniority, etc.)? Do many live off campus? If so, why? Also, do the dorms shut down on holidays
    and breaks or can long distance students arrange to stay on campus or in their dorms?
  10. Can you tell me anything first hand about the (French, English, History, etc.) department?
  11. What impact do fraternities have here? Athletics?
  12. After learning a little more about me, do you think I would be a good fit here? 

Want more helpful college planning content? Download our College Guide and sign up for our college planning emails which can walk you through the college planning process!

10 must-dos at your college visits

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Oct 10, 2014 9:48:00 AM

How do you know if a college is a good fit for you? Of course, a lot of students out there just "get a feeling" but we mean how do you realllllly know? College is an enormous investment, so you don't want to pick a school on a whim! 

At the College Planning Center, we believe that determining if a college is a good fit for you first starts with a serious personal assessment. What are your values, your assets and strengths? What are your weaknesses? What do you want to do after college and what have you explored about that choice? If it is a career, have you job shawdowed, read up on employment levels and starting salaries? If it is more education, do you know what you have to do as an undergrad to get in? Knowing the answer to these questions is a great first step. iStock_000004412148Small-1

Next, of course, is narrowing down a list of colleges that look like they could meet your goals and interests, takings into consideration many factors such as size, location, academics, activities, services, etc. Using college selection tools online can help with this process but you may be left with a pretty big list when you are done. The next way to get a better idea if a college is a good match for you is to visit the school. So, how do you make the most out of your college visits? Follow these 10 steps which can help you find the best college for you!

1. Stop 5 students on the campus.

Ask them what they like least and most about the college. Ask them who they think is most and least happy at that particular school and if they could do it all over again, would they choose that school. 

2. Go on the tour.

Yes, it may be a total yawn! But despite this, you will often get access to see areas of the college you wouldn't otherwise be able to see. Tours also give you an opportunitiy to see what other kinds of students are interested in the college, and allows you to ask questions about the college from someone in the know (often a student!). 

3. Read the campus news.

On your tour, you will likely see a copy of the campus newspaper hanging around. Pick it up. See what kinds of stories capture the attention of the student body. What kinds of events and activities are advertised in the paper? Do they interest you? Do you like the conversation on campus? 

4. Sit in on a class.

Talk to the admissions office before you arrive and figure out how you can sit in on a class. This will give you an opportunity to see what college is really all about...the academics!

5. Get a course catelog.

Maybe you don't love the course you sit in on, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of other classes that will keep you interested and excited. Browse through the course catelog for the department you are interested in. View requirements for the major you are thinking of pursuing. 

6. Go off the beaten path.

Once the tour is done, take a mini-tour of your own to see other parts of the campus. This is a great opportunity to find those students you are looking for in Tip #1! 

7. Meet with financial aid.

College costs can lead to sticker shock for many families but lots of families receive financial aid that can offset that sticker price. Learn about financial aid by scheduling an appointment before you arrive on campus. Ask about the % of need met and how that need is typically met. Ask them what the typical borrowing amounts are for graduates and get information on where to find their net price calculator which can help you estimate how much the college will cost a family like yours. 

8. Set up appointments with coaches, advisors, program heads, etc.

If there is a particular program or activity you are wanting to pursue, it may be a good idea to meet with the head of that program or an adviser within that program when you are on campus so you can get a better idea of your fit. 

9. Bring a list of questions and take notes!

You may be overwhelmed by information from any tour guides, admissions officers, coaches or advisers you meet with. Come prepared with a list of questions to ask and request business cards so you can follow up with any additional inquiries. Take notes when your questions are answered. 

10. Have fun!

There are a lot of things to remember to do when you visit a college campus, but also remember to have fun and relax about this exciting next step in your life!


Need some help sorting through your options? Want a free essay review? Book your free college planning appointment today.


How to request letters of recommendation for college

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Oct 5, 2014 12:07:00 PM

It's college application season, which means it is time to start requesting letters of recommendation for college. You may feel nervous about doing this, but just keep in mind the people who you are asking have done this before. Keep these tips in mind when making your requests:

1. Ask the right people.iStock_000018354207Small-1

Letters of recommendation should come from adults who can speak to your talents and abilities. Don't ask your family or friends to write letters of recommendation for you. Teachers are a great place to start - pick out your favorites - those who you had a good connection with as a start. Your guidance counselor will also likely write you a letter of recommendation. Next consider your coaches, club supervisors or employers. 

2. Provide your high school resume. 

Providing a copy of your high school resume will help the person writing your letter of recommendation cite specific examples about you. Often times teachers are asked to write many of these a year so giving them a guideline of your activities and accomplishments will help them get it done and make it personal. 

3. Ask early. 

Don't wait until the last minute to ask for letters of recommendation (even if you are nervous about it!). Whoever is writing your letter is likely writing letters for other students too and you need to give them plenty of time to get it done or they may have to tell you, "no." If you haven't lined up people to write your letters yet, do it now!

4. Communicate deadlines and instructions. 

Make sure you communicate when the letter is due to your school and how they can submit the letter to the school, whether it is by mail, online or some other method. Send them a friendly reminder a week before the deadline to make sure it's met. 

5. Send a thank you note. 

Take the time to write a hand written thank you note to the people who took the time out of their day to write your letters of recommendation. It will make a good impression and let them know their efforts were appreciated. 

Best of all, good luck with applying to college! If you need some help narrowing down your list of colleges, or would like an essay review, make a free appointment with the College Planning Center of RI. Or Download the College Guide and Sign Up for Monthly College Planning Tips.

10 tips on how to own! the SAT

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Sep 30, 2014 11:12:35 AM

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare!

A typical approach is to try to cram in as much information as possible in the few weeks leading up to the test. This might result in a modest score increase but the best way to make sure you understand the types of questions you will be asked - and how you need to answer them - is to study a little bit each week for an entire year (or more, if you are feeling ambitious!). 

2. Practice, practice, practice!

Part of the SAT is that you only have a certain amount of time to complete a lot of questions. If you are taking a timed version of the exam for the first time on test day, you are likely to feel anxious about getting everything completed - and it could be to your detriment. Take as many practice exams as you can get access to (10-15 is an ideal number) - and time yourself. Learn what kinds of questions you can take your time on, and which ones you need to get done quickly and move on. Experts argue that there is a strong correlation to how many practice exams you take and how well you do on the test. iStock_000043382204Small-1

3. Take the PSAT.

This official "practice" exam can help you identify your strengths and weakness when it comes to taking the SAT so you can dedicate more of your prep time to the areas you need it most. 

4. Take the SAT more than once.

Plan on taking the SAT more than once. Even if you take lots of practice exams before the big day, it's nice to know you have a second chance. You can submit your best scores to your colleges of choice. Just keep in mind that taking the SAT more than three times is unlikely to lead to much of a score increase. 

5. Learn to avoid traps.

When taking multiple choice questions, the tests are often structured to lead you down the wrong path. While you don't want to over analyze every question, be careful not to choose an answer until you have considered if it is a trap. 

6. Know how the test is structured.

For example, in the math section, the easiest questions are first and the hardest questions are at the end of the test. You are penalized more for wrong answers than you are for skipped questions, so breathe easy, take your time figuring out the problem and try to get it right rather than just filling in any circle in a rush when you don't know the answer right away. Some experts recommend not wasting time reading a passage in the reading section first. Instead, start by reading the question, finding the answer in the passage, and then moving on to the next question. 

7. Communication is key in the essay section.

Experts advise that you spend the most time organizing your points and structuring your essay to communicate a clear theme and argument. Dedicate less time to using fancy vocabulary and perfecting your grammar. These are important, but creating a clear, structured, and organized essay takes precedence. Include an introduction and conclusion and support your argument and stance with examples. 

8. Get a good night's sleep the night before the test and eat breakfast!!!

Your brain functions better on a good night's sleep. Don't stay up late cramming for the test. Instead, get good rest and start your test day with a healthy breakfast. You will need a lot of energy and endurance to get through the test and it can't be done on an empty stomach and little sleep! 

9. Don't waste your time on items not on the test.

Calculus questions aren't included. Don't focus on building up skills that won't do you any good on test day. Instead, focus your efforts on cleaning up your geometry and algebra. 

10. Invest in a test book or course.

Some free resources are available, and if you can find one (through your school or online) then take advantage. The College Board also provides some preparation materials - this is the organization that creates the SAT - so it is a good place to start looking for good test materials. 

Topics: Borrowing for College

College admissions: Should I apply early?

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Sep 22, 2014 8:30:00 AM

Applying to college early has become a very popular option over the past few decades. According to the College Board, about 450 colleges in the US now offer early application programs. There are a few different types of early application plans available, some of which bind you to the school and some that allow you to explore other options. So what is the benefit of applying early and are there circumstances where a student shouldn't apply to college early? 

First let's discuss the major types of early application plans:iStock_000000834929Small

Early Decision

The Early Decision option is specifically for students looking to apply to their first-choice college. You can only apply to one school Early Decision. You may continue to apply to other schools under Regular Admissions but you must agree to withdraw your applications from those school if you are accepted by your Early Decision school. Early Decision plans are binding so you commit to attending that school if you are accepted. Financial aid applicants will receive a tentative financial aid package at the time of acceptance. You should consider applying Early Decision only if you are certain that the particular school is the best fit for you. 

Early Action

This option, like Early Decision, allows for an early application and admission decision, but without the commitment to attend. You can apply to more than one school under an Early Action plan. While you will receive notification of acceptance early, you will receive your financial aid package in the spring with all the rest of the applicants. You may accept your offer of admissions at the time it is received or you can choose to wait until spring to notify the school of your enrollment decicion. This is a more flexible option than Early Decision. 

Restrictive Early Action

Restrictive Early Action is a program for students who know at the time of application that this is their first choice school. You should only apply to one school under the Restrictive Early Action plan but can continue to apply to other schools through Regular Admissions. It differs from Early Decision as you are offered the option of comparing financial aid awards from other schools before making your enrollment decision. 

Studies have shown that students who apply to a college early are more likely to get accepted than students who wait until the regular admission deadline, but that doesn't mean it is always a good idea to apply early. 

So when is applying early not a good idea?

  • In general, if you want to have the option of comparing financial aid packages and ultimately deciding which college is best for you until later, it is best not to apply under and Early Decision plan (Early Action is ok.) 
  • If you are slightly under-qualified (over over-qualified for that matter) for the college, your chances of getting in accepted or declined aren't likely to change by applying early, so it may be best to explore additional options during the fall rather than rushing to get your application in. 
  • If you want to have another semester's worth of grades and activities to impress your colleges with, it might be best to wait until the regular application deadline. 
  • If you don't have any idea of what you want to study, it may be better to wait until regular admissions. Use the time over the fall to explore careers and take personality assessments. You may discover your dream job, and if you have already applied to a college Early Decision that doesn't offer your desired major, you could be in trouble. 
  • If you haven't had the chance to visit and research all of the colleges you are interest in, it is best not to bind yourself to one school. Give yourself the time to fully explore all of your options during the fall before sending in your applications. 

If you need some help sorting through your options and identifying good-fit and good-value colleges, the College Planning Center of Rhode Island is here to help. Book your free appointment online.  

SAT vs ACT: Which test should you take?

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Sep 16, 2014 11:06:00 AM

The SAT and ACT are standardized tests that allow colleges to compare you to other students. In some cases, schools are dropping these tests as a requirement for admissions but most schools require one or the other. Some schools even use your test scores to evaluate whether or not you are eligible for a merit-based scholarship. The ACT tends to be more popular with public schools and schools in the Midwest and South. The SAT is the more common requirement at private schools and colleges on the east and west coasts. The most important factor in determining which test you should take is which test the schools you are applying to require. Some students may end up having to take both tests. 107077-resized-600

If you find that your schools allow you to submit test scores from either test - as is the case for some - how do you determine which one is right for you? Some students find that one test helps show their strengths or weaknesses more than the other test. 

Here is a breakdown of how each test is structured:


  • This test primarily covers reading, knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, math skills, and ability to communicate through writing. 
  • The test is split into three sections: Critical reading, Math and Writing. You will have 70 minutes to complete the Critical Reading section which will include reading passages and sentence completions, 70 minutes to complete the Math section which will ask you questions on arithmetic, geometry, algebra, statistics and probability, and 60 minutes to complete your essay and answer some questions on grammar usage in the Writing section. 
  • For each section, you can score between 200-800. You total score is a sum of your scores from all sections and will be between 600 and 2400. If you take the SAT more than once, you can choose which set of scores to send to the colleges you are applying to. 
  • Typically taking the SAT more than 3 times isn't advised since it is unlikely to improve your score.
  • You can view test dates and register for the test at sat.collegeboard.org


  • The ACT has 5 major sections: English, Math, Reading, Science and Writing. The Writing section is optional but all other sections are required. 
  • The English section includes questions about punctuation, grammar, and has 75 questions. You have 45 minutes to complete this section. 
  • The Math section asks questions about pre-algebra, algebra, geometry and trigonometry. There are 60 questions and you have 60 minutes to complete the section. 
  • The Reading section includes readings based on four topics: social studies, natural science, prose fiction, and humanities. There are 40 questions and you have 35 minutes to complete the section. 
  • The Science section measures the interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem solving skills required in the natural sciences. You will have 35 minutes to complete 40 questions. 
  • The optional Writing section is a 30 minutes essay that measures your writing skills. 
  • Scores in each section range from 1-36 and your total ACT score is your average score on all sections. 
  • You can view test dates and register for this test at www.actstudent.org

Remember, whichever test you take, it is important to prepare! Start studying ASAP and set aside a small amount of time each week to prepare, rather than trying to get all your studying done in the few weeks preceding your test date. 

Books, online resources, and classes are all available to help you prepare. Some options are completely free! Check with your high school to see if they offer a class and search online for free SAT and ACT prep classes than can help you improve your score. 

Need some help deciding which schools to apply to? The College Planning Center of RI can provide you with guidance and information that can help you with your decision. Book a free appointment online

Rising seniors and college visits

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Sep 12, 2014 10:00:00 AM

If you are now a senior in high school looking to pursue a college education, you undoubtedly visited some college campuses over the summer. But how can you make the most out of your college visits and learn what you need to decide if the college is the right fit for you? Follow this guide:

1. Go on the tour. (But also take a tour of your own!)

As much as you may have a "feeling" about whether or not the college is a good fit for you as soon as you set foot (or drive) through the campus, take the tour! When I was searching for colleges I often refused to get out of the car and decided whether or not I could attend a college based on how the buildings looked. I took a few college tours, and not surprisingly, the ones I took were at schools I ultimately ended up applying to. The point is, it took some information and convincing for me to see that a college was a good fit for me, and often times, the tour gave me the extra comfort and knowledge I needed to think it was worth applying to. So go on the tour, and when it is finished, take some time to explore the campus on your own and stop a few students to ask about their experience at the college. But if the tour is a total yawn, recognize that it doesn't mean the school isn't a good fit so make sure to collect other information and spend some time on the campus on your own before crossing the college off of your list. iStock_000018387037Small

2. Get a copy of the course catalog.

Browse through it and see if you are interested in the class descriptions. You will likely find they are very different from what you are used to in high school. Do the courses get you excited? If there is one that sticks out, try to arrange to sit in on the class while it is in session. 

3. Read the school newspaper.

Learn about student culture, news, and happenings by grabbing a copy of the campus newspaper. Does it interest you? Do you think you would want to pursue the advertised activities? Are the issues discussed fascinating to you? 

4. Ask questions.

Bring a list of thoughtful questions to ask the tour guide, the admissions office, and students. Use your time to get answers you can't find on the college website or brochure such as:

  • What type of student is most and least happy here? 
  • What do you like most and least about this college? 
  • What kind of role does student government, intramurals, fraternities, etc. play on this campus? 
  • What are the most popular majors and why? 
  • What are the greatest challenges about attending this college? What do students most often
    complain about?

5. Take notes.

If you have visited a lot of campuses, you are unlikely to remember every little detail from each school. Take notes about specifics, how you felt on the campus, who you met, and what you thought of them. 

6. Spend the night if you can.

Many colleges have overnight visitation programs. Staying on campus for a full day and night can help you with your decision, give you the opportunity to meet more students, speak with staff and faculty, eat at the dining hall, see the dorm rooms and more. Contact the admissions office and ask if they have an overnight visitation program for college students. 

Selecting Colleges: 4 ways to help your child decide

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Sep 8, 2014 1:59:00 PM

Deciding on the perfect college to go to is no doubt an arduous task. As the new academic year begins, seniors across Rhode Island will be narrowing down their college options and refining their college lists into a set of 6-8 schools to apply to. How can you help your child make the right decision on where to apply? 

1. Help them explore careers and majors.

Have an honest conversation with your son or daughter and ask them questions about the career they want to pursue, what they know about that career, and help them find concrete information on what that career looks like for an entry-level and mid-career level professional. Use tools like bls.gov, salary.com and glassdoor.com. Encourage them to take personality and career assesments (such as those provided through WaytogoRI.org). Be sensitive to your student's goals and desires, but make sure they have the practical information they need to make an educated decision about what to study. If your student is unsure of what they want to study, looking into school that have a wide range of majors might be a wise choice.  

2. Take them on the college tour.iStock_000003714012Small

Some students set foot on a college campus and snap - just like that - they decide they love it or hate it. There is much more to a college than how it looks. A great way of learning about the culture and academcis of a college is to take the college tour and sit in on an information session. Be prepared for a fight. High school students can be stubborn. But the college tour is an essential step to judging whether the college will be a good fit, beyond whether or not the campus is "pretty."  

3. Rank what's important.

Explore factors to consider when conducting a college search. Have your student make a list of what is most and least important to them in a college. Next, ask them to match up the colleges they are considering to the list of factors to see what might be the best match for him or her. 

4. Be supportive.

Maybe you have always had it in your head that your child would go to your alma matter or some other school. But remember, just because you believe it is the right fit, doesn't mean he or she will. Be supportive of the fact that deciding on a college is a difficult choice and one of the first big ones your child will make as a young adult. In order for your child to want invest the time and energy and motivation it takes to complete college, he or she has to be happy with his or her choice. Otherwise, it could end up costing you.