Helping Your Teen Choose the Right College

Having worked in higher education for 17 years, people are always asking me: “What do you consider to be the most important factor for students to consider when making their final college choice?”  I don’t think I can ultimately narrow that decision down to one factor, but I can narrow it down to the top 2 most important factors. I call these factors fit and finances.

When I say fit, I’m referring to the school matching your initial criteria that was important to you at the beginning of your search. Some of these factors may have been proximity to home, size of campus, your major as well as campus facilities. Fit also includes those unknown factors that you only discovered once you’re able to see the college campuses, talk to the students as well as the staff.  Sometimes, when we walk on a campus there are these unknown factors that end up being just as important. Such as, how helpful or accommodating are the administrative offices such as financial aid and the registrar. Or, how approachable are the faculty in your major and do they have flexible office hours. Lastly, there are also those intangibles such as the “feel” of the campus. (i.e. How happy are the students and are they fully engaged with the campus?) The  “feel” of the campus can come from your gut and sometimes it can’t be explained, but college campus either gives you a good feeling, no feeling, or a bad feelings. Always listen to what your gut is telling you when making that final decision along with the other criteria mentioned above.

The 2nd factor I refer to is finances. There’s nothing worse than a student attending the college of his/her dreams only to find out during their sophomore or junior year that the school is too expensive for them and/or their parents to afford so they need to transfer elsewhere. Be well aware prior to accepting your number #1 college choice, of all the costs associated with attending that institution. If financial aid, grants and loans still don’t put a dent in the tuition, meal plan and housing costs then the school is just too expensive for you to afford. This is where parental guidance can be critical because  as an 18 or 19-year-old wanting to go off to college sometimes their heart can overrule their head. Parents need to help ground their children and help them understanding the costs associated with higher education. Also, parents and students need to remember that sometimes grants and scholarships guaranteed during freshman year may or may not be guaranteed for the remaining 3 years. I recommend using a spreadsheet or a wipe board for plotting out the pros and cons of your top choices. Again, always keeping in mind fit as well as finances.

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About Carol Langlois
Dr Carol is a former University Dean and Associate Provost, trained therapist, researcher, educational consultant and writer. During her training, she counseled hundreds of clients in one-on-one sessions as well as in group settings where her work was with college freshman dealing with transitional and developmental issues on campus. Her primary research focus is female self-esteem development among teens. Her published dissertation “The effects of single gender versus coeducational environments on the self-esteem development and academic competence of high school females” focused on 15 year old girls in the Bay Area where her research findings showed disturbingly low levels of self-esteem across the board. This staggering discovery has led her to further research this topic. She is working on her second book called Girl Talk: Boys, Bullies and Body Image, which is a compilation of interviews with teens girls on the topic of self-esteem while offering an effective and practical system designed to RAISE (Resilience, Attitude, Independence, Self-Respect and Empowerment) teen self-esteem. In addition, she runs groups for non-profits interested in adding self-esteem training into their overall mission.

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