Helping your child find colleges represents a turning point. In many cases, your son or daughter will be leaving home for the first time, setting off into academia as a young adult.
And whether you select colleges based on academic record, admission policies, cost or some other factor, be prepared for a lively debate – if your child is like many, he or she has built up an image of school life that you may need to temper with a dose of reality.
But even if you disagree at the start of your discussion, you can narrow the list of prospective schools by considering vital criteria, including these three:
- Cost. Paying for college is a challenge many parents face. Perhaps you set up a college fund when your child was a baby or used a 529 Plan to lock in the tuition rate; perhaps you invested with college in mind or are counting on scholarships. Whatever the case, don’t let cost dissuade you from investigating a school. You can research financial aid that can help foot the bills. If you’re considering student loans, you can find resources that give students the foundation of financial literacy. Investigate the net price calcuatlor at individual schools to get an idea of what your family might need to pay at that particular school. Don't be scared away by the "sticker price."
- Admissions policy. One of the best-kept secrets of college admissions: It’s not all about the grades. Certainly a healthy GPA and good SAT/ACT scores are attractive to recruiters and admissions officers, but colleges and universities often take a more holistic view. Your child’s volunteer work, internships, awards, letters of recommendation or compelling essay can tilt the scales in her favor.
- Campus life. Athletics, diversity, activities and even the size of the school are examples of non-academic factors that contribute to a successful college career. Especially as a freshman, your son or daughter should feel comfortable and secure at school.
A closer look
Once you’ve developed a list of select colleges, give each school a closer look. Ask about visits or guided tours that take students and parents into classrooms, dorms and other areas. Seminars, tutorials and events can connect you with representatives from several schools.
Whether it’s paying for college or choosing a major, you and your child have decisions to make. But you’re not alone. As Rhode Island residents, you can take advantage of a remarkable free resource dedicated to helping you find colleges that match your child’s goals and meet your expectations.