The first step is to find colleges your child is interested in. There are several ways to do this:
1. College Fair
I recommend having your child attend a local college fair in the fall of his or her sophomore year of high school. The goal of this event is not to talk to people at each booth, but to pick up brochures from as many different schools as possible. Take these home and go through them together. Keep in mind that there is a lot of “fluff” and marketing effort that goes into a college brochure. What they are best for is collecting facts about a school.
2. College Ranking Websites
There are several websites that rank colleges. My favorite is the U.S. News and World Report college rankings. There are various opinions out there on the ranking methodology they use and whether it is good or bad. I don’t really care about all that. As long as you don’t take the rankings as the only judge of a good school, this can be a great source of information. Forbes also ranks the top 650 colleges in the U.S. You will see vast differences in the rankings for the same schools if you compare the two lists. The two use very different ranking methodologies and there does not seem to be any agreement on who’s right or who’s wrong. I think the information available on the U.S. News list for each college is much more detailed. There are other lists out there, like Princeton Review, but they do not publish the actual ranking list online. They want you to buy their book. You can get some details on the colleges on their list of the 377 best colleges online and you can see some of their sub-lists like “best college dorms” or “most beautiful campus.”
3. College Websites
Use this in conjunction with the ideas above or on its own. Have your child think of all the colleges that they are curious about, that someone they know went to. Think of the colleges you know and think are good schools. Then go online and find the college websites. College websites provide a wealth of information. Most of them have a “fast facts” area where you can get the basics on enrollment, acceptance rate, test scores range of accepted applicants, tuition and room & board amounts and more.
In my next post, I will talk about what to do with all the different schools and information you have collected.