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Choosing the Best College for Your ChildTransitioning from high school to college is one of the biggest leaps our kids will make in their academic careers. There are new responsibilities, a higher level of self-sufficiency, and of course, an entirely new social circle. But, before they are settled into their dorm rooms, with shower caddy and flip-flops, a major decision has to be made: Which college is the best fit for them?
So often we get caught up in the glossy brochures, well-crafted “Welcome to Campus” videos, and the very impressive U.S. college rankings that we forget to ask the most important questions. When it comes down to helping our kids choose the best school for their needs, we need to weigh several factors.
Here are some questions to get the conversation started:
1) Are you Comfortable here? Beyond class size and student-to-professor ratio, the best fit college needs to offer your child a space in which they find comfort and peace of mind. Even if your child decides not to live on campus, college will become their home and their primary hub for the next few years. You want to make sure you and your child feel safe on and surrounding campus.
2) What’s our emergency plan? Emergencies can occur at anytime, but they are doubly difficult when your child is away and you can’t get to them. Before selecting a college make sure there are family members or friends in the area that serve as refuge for your child in case of an emergency or even for a Sunday dinner escape. You also want to discuss the best course of action if something happens at home and your college student needs to return abruptly.
3) Are there opportunities for career development? The college classroom offers a lot in terms of information, but real world experience is vital for the résumé and a competitive edge. Ask the university where their students usually find internships and externships in your child’s field of study. Research the local area and make sure that there are businesses and opportunities available for your child to apply classroom knowledge, while building their portfolio through paid or unpaid work experiences.
4) How will you engage in the college community? Every college will tell you about how many social clubs and organizations they have on campus. But, are these groups ideal for your child? Are there efforts and spaces that cater to the needs of students of color? How many cultural organizations and programs are available to your student? College is more than a classroom; it’s an experience. Be sure that your child will get the best out of the education and social components of college. A strong network is important for success in life.
5) How does the program of study and faculty rank nationally? While a college or university may have a great reputation, every school or program it offers won’t be as competitive as others. Do some research on faculty members and alumni of the school or program your child will enter. You want to know how professors are contributing to the field, what connections they have to industry insiders, and what pathways exist to connect current students with successful alumni. Find out the percentage of graduates from your child’s intended program of study who are working in the field and forging paths to success.
Melissa A. Rowe. M.Ed. is a writer and educator who works with parents, teachers and organizations to help young people succeed in school and in life.
Visit her blog: www.MelissaARowe.com