It can be tough to know how to start a college search with your teenager. Alex Boylan, host of the TV show .“The College Tour,” says to focus on these four areas when starting your search.
As someone whose profession is focused on college tours, it’s safe to say that I understand why so many students have a hard time choosing the right school.
There are a lot of great choices out there, and knowing where to begin can be daunting.
Each school is unique, blending aspects of campus life that extend far beyond the classroom, making it nearly impossible to know where to look first. Finding your starting point is about as relaxing as searching for “Where’s Waldo” in a sea of Waldo lookalikes, which is why so many people mistakenly limit their scope when searching for a school.
But what if it wasn’t so overwhelming? What if the process of choosing the right college was, dare I say, easy and fun?
College admissions shouldn’t be something that parents and students dread
Starting the process doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. You just need to know what to focus on when beginning your search.
Like so much in life, having the right attitude and asking the right questions can make all the difference, which is why I encourage parents and teens to identify these four key pillars in their college search.
Knowing what to focus on and how to narrow the landscape to your teen’s specific needs will change not just the nature of the search but your confidence in the results of the outcome.
Four Keys to Consider When Starting Your College Search
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
When I tell students to look at location, I’m asking them to take a lot into consideration.
First, there is the geographical proximity to home (some students would rather to be a short drive away instead of a plane ride), but there is also access to what is around them beyond the campus.
If you like theatre and urban life, you may want a big city school, or at least have quick access to a city.
If you have a child who hates the cold and tends to hibernate in the winter, maybe they will be more comfortable at a school that is in a warmer climate.
The point is there are enough schools out there where you can really get everything you want in your budget. There is no reason to settle or compromise.
Quality of life is an important factor when choosing the right school and finding one in an ideal spot should be a top priority.
Campus culture is more than athletics or Greek life.
Campus culture encompasses so much of what will make up a good majority of your teen’s everyday experience.
From housing and clubs to study-abroad opportunities, and community outreach, figure out what will add the most to the experience based on your teen’s interests or lifestyle.
For instance, if you are a military family there are schools that help to serve veterans and their families. If your teen is environmentally conscious, many schools focus on sustainability.
You also may want to consider the composite of the student body. Most schools now include stats on diversity. Additionally, campus tour guides are often refreshingly honest, so they can tell you if the school’s population is extremely competitive, politically leaning, or sports-oriented.
A little soul-searching will help to narrow down the playing field.
There are many different types of colleges, so whittling down this category is half the battle.
If attending a religiously-affiliated school or a Hispanic Serving Institution is at the core of your teen’s priorities, make that a top need in your search. You want them to feel comfortable but also excited about being on campus and a part of a community. If there is a specific type of school that can foster that sense of belonging, I strongly encourage factoring that into your search process.
Tech schools, community colleges, state universities, and private schools are equally strong if you select them with the mindset of the right-fit college for your student.
There are no one-size-fits-all schools. What worked for one of your kids may not work for the other.
At some point, choosing a major will be an important part of your teen’s college journey so selecting a school that can help them get a job or into a strong graduate school is an important part of the equation.
While some teens know exactly what they want to study, others have little to no clue. Some students even switch majors entirely halfway through.
Majors are important but can change, so having your teen in a school that meets their academic interests, talents, and strengths can help guide them to identify a path that will work best for them.
If your student is unsure and has no idea what they want to major in, that’s okay. Focus on finding a college where they have strong academic advisors or opportunities for students to study a variety of areas so they can find something that they are passionate about doing.
Some schools focus on specific areas such as pre-law or pre-medicine, architecture, business, performing arts, hospitality, tourism and so much more.
Be open to learning about different majors. So many students go in closed-minded not even realizing how many majors and career paths exist.
Identifying What Your Teen Wants to Get Out of Their Experience Can Help Ease the College Search Process
Choosing the right college is a monumental decision, but I promise you that having a focused outlook can lessen the burden and help turn something stressful into something truly exciting.
These life-changing decisions should be looked at critically and sincerely, and as long as your teen stays honest to who they are and what they are seeking to get out of the experience, the right school will be easy to spot.
*Watch The College Tour here.
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