As the newest member of the Admit U team, I am thrilled to be joining at an exciting time of the college admissions cycle … decision-making time! As most schools require a commitment by May 1st, this is an exciting (and often stressful) time for students who have several acceptances in hand and now need to decide where to go. If you and your child are in this situation … please read on!
Every year, I speak at an event in my community for parents who are starting to think about the college planning process. I am part of a panel that presents on choosing schools, taking the SAT/ACT, paying for college, etc. There is always a parent on the panel who gives the "parent perspective," which is quite invaluable.
One year, my friend Maureen was the parent on the panel. When it was her turn to present, she stood in front of the room and reached into her purse for a pair of white, fuzzy earmuffs. She put them on and said to the group:
"Do yourself a favor, and get a pair of these."
Everyone laughed, but Maureen was serious. She went on to explain that you need a pair of earmuffs and so does YOUR child, especially when it comes to making a decision in the spring. She said that the best piece of advice she could give when it came to choosing a college was to tune out the chatter (usually negative) coming from other parents and students; focus on doing what is right for your child and your family.
Even when you ignore those around you, it can still be overwhelming to make a decision. Here are some practical suggestions for helping with the decision-making process:
1. Rank the schools.
Maybe you already have a serious spreadsheet going, but if you don't, you need one. Create categories that are important to you and your child. (Location, finances, size, program strength, etc.) Come up with as many categories as you can to help better differentiate the scores. You and your child should rank each school on a score of 1-10 for each category. Tally up the category scores and you will have an overall score. Do the scoring independently of each other and then compare notes. You might surprise yourself with what comes out on top.
2. Be honest with yourself and your child about the finances.
Going into debt to pay for schooling is real … and potentially scary. Have an honest conversation with your child about what that might mean for your family. Does your child realize what incurring debt looks and feels like after graduation? Now that you have the acceptances and financial packages in front of you, go there with your child.
3. Do more research.
Now that you know your child is "in," do more research. What is the retention rate after freshman year? If your child should want to change colleges within a university, is that possible? Think more long-term about the college and what it has to offer now that you know your child has been accepted.
4. Take advantage of “Admitted Student Days”.
Many colleges offer one or several “Admitted Students Days.” This is a great opportunity for your child to revisit the school to confirm interest. It is also a great way to check out the other students who have been accepted. Those students will be potential classmates and roommates. Not able to swing an Admitted Students Day with your schedule? Have your child join social media groups related to the colleges they have been admitted to. What are the online conversations about? Does your child have similar interests? Are the conversations different than what your child is used to or comfortable with? Basically, your child has the chance to gauge if these are the types of people he or she wants to be surrounded by for the next four years.
5. Go with your gut.
When all is said and one, you might just need to go with your gut. Chances are that your child has several great options and now it is just time to choose. And remember, there doesn’t have to be just one fit! As Admit U founder Melanie Talesnick reminds us, she often encourages students to have multiple top choices as best fit isn’t always just ONE school.
Once you choose, don't look back. Take off the earmuffs and celebrate!