My daughter is a freshman in college and so I’ve heard more than usual this year about kids her age who are not happy with whatever college choice they’ve made. Some of this will resolve itself by year end, particularly if it’s simply the case of a bit of homesickness or a slow start in getting comfortable with a close group of friends.
But I’ve also heard complaints about things that could have been avoided, had the student checked into some areas a bit more thoroughly before making a final decision. These include:
- Academics: Size of classes and professor interaction; rigor of course work; level of academic support; range of majors; foreign language and general education requirements.
Students often gloss over the specifics of the academics as if every college they are accepted to will be a good fit.
- Social scene: Amount of partying; importance of Greek Life; degree of school spirit; amount of school-organized social events on weekends; percent of students going home on weekends.
Students have a hard time excelling academically if they are not happy with the options for blowing off steam outside of class.
- Student body: Conservative vs. liberal students; racial, geographic, religious and socioeconomic diversity; cultural differences if in a new area of the country.
Has your student spent enough time on campus to feel a connection with at least some kids at this school?
- Location: How easy is it to get home and does that matter?
Is your student likely to want to come home more often than the main school breaks allow?
- Finances: It’s important to look at overall expense to graduate. Look at percentage of kids that graduate in four years and consider the extra expense if extra time is needed. It also makes sense to take into account that need-based and merit aid usually only last for 8 semesters and that merit aid often has a GPA minimum attached to keep the scholarship going each year.
These areas are very important to evaluate for seniors making their final choice this spring – it often entails multiple visits to fully explore. And juniors should begin to look at these areas at each campus, keep notes and plan to spend a good amount of time investigating before a college makes it onto (or is taken off of) your short list.
Remember, extra time spent now will save time (and money) later!