Important College List Considerations

This is a time when many juniors are exploring which colleges they will apply to in the fall. Some are intrigued by a large university with a robust sports scene and social life. Others are heavily influenced by the weather.

Of course, there are many more things to keep in mind when assembling your list of potential colleges. Here are a few that you may not have considered…

Freshman Housing. Recently, I listened to an admissions presentation from a large public university. Since my students would be coming from out of state, I asked, “How many years is on-campus housing guaranteed? The answer? Zero. It’s not even guaranteed for freshmen!

At this school, students must put down their university deposit and their housing deposit by early March in order to get a room on campus. That’s early, as students typically don’t have to commit to college until May 1! At that point, many students at this college will have to scramble to look for off-campus housing, which is a lot for a new college student to handle.

New State Laws. Recently, some states have made changes to laws regarding educational guidelines, reproductive rights, and the right to have firearms on campus. Make sure you consider what impact, if any, these changes may have on your decision to attend a college in one of these states.

Application Review Process. Some large public universities are only considering recalculated GPA’s (the college will assign a new GPA based on its formula) and SAT or ACT scores. Most schools continue to be test optional, but not all.

In other words, these schools do not take personal essays, teacher recommendation letters, or a student’s activities outside of class into account in admissions. Ask how your application is reviewed or find that information on the admission website.

Merit Aid. Paying full price at a school where your student is barely able to be accepted may not be the best fiscal plan for your family. On the other hand, if you have schools on the list that are a good fit – but not as popular or selective – your student may be offered significant merit aid. It can add up to significant dollar savings over four or more years.

Keep in mind that your student may need to maintain a certain GPA at college in order to keep a merit scholarship year to year. That may be more manageable if they are at a school that is at the right academic level for them.

New Acceptance Reality. Many of the more selective colleges have become extremely restrictive in the number of students they are admitting. With that in mind, and to avoid surprise and disappointment, make sure your student also applies to schools where there is a strong likelihood of being admitted.

Majors. If your student is applying directly into a major and is not accepted, will there be an opportunity to transfer in later? Further, if your student is interested in a restricted major and it is not a direct entry path as a freshman, find out what percentage of students are successful in being admitted at the end of sophomore year. Finally, if your student is undecided on a major, find out if the school in question has an advising and exploratory program to help them find their passion.

Type of learning. Is your student looking to be anonymous in a big lecture setting, or would they prefer smaller classes with active discussion and participation? Are they most comfortable with multiple choice exams or with written essay prompts? Are there hands-on learning opportunities available (group projects, fieldwork, labs, research, internships, co-ops)?  These factors and more regarding the type of learning can have a significant impact on your student’s academic success and satisfaction.

Support. Many students are struggling at college these days – academically, emotionally and socially. Look into the support available to all students and pay close attention to whether the overall environment feels right regarding student competitiveness, accessibility of professors, etc.

As you fine-tune your student’s college list this spring, make sure to discuss these important factors!

(More details on this topic can be found in my February newsletter, here.

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