Finishing the College Search

Published by Wendy Nelson on

For my oldest daughter, finishing the college search came down to choosing between two schools.  I gave tips on how to do that here: The Final College Choice – Choosing Between Two Colleges. This year, for my middle daughter, finishing the college search was much easier.  She knew where she wanted to go and she had a couple backup schools.  When her acceptance came in, she promptly paid her deposit and signed up for housing.

For many students, finishing the college search is not that easy.  The decision can be agonizing.  Below are a few things to discuss with your student to help him or her think through the final college choice.

Final College Choice Considerations:

  1. Size – A small campus may feel really intimate and less scary when you visit.  How will it feel after 2 or 3 years? Will it feel claustrophobic?  Will it feel like high school?  A small school will offer fewer courses to choose from.  A large school will offer many more courses, but will have much more competition for the spots available.
  2. Majors – Does your student know what he or she wants to major in?  How likely is it that a change of mind will occur?  My oldest daughter went in undeclared.  Had she known that she would choose the major that she ended up choosing, she would have selected a different college.  Although her college offered the major she wanted, it is a small and not very strong program.  Sometimes it makes sense to select a school that has many more majors to choose from.
  3. Location – How far away is the school and how often will your student want to come home?  Will it be difficult for you to visit?  Or does your student need to be far enough away not to be tempted to come home every weekend?
  4. Friendly Faces – Some students want to walk on campus and be anonymous.  Others may benefit from some friendly faces, especially at really large schools.  One thing that really resonated with my middle daughter was when a couple older friends who attend the school she has selected said that they were so glad to know a few people on campus when they started.
  5. Cost – When everything else is pretty much equal between schools, I would argue that your student should select the one with the lowest out-of-pocket cost.  The most expensive college is not necessarily the best.  It’s more important to select a school where there are lots of things to get involved in such as extra-curriculars, research, internships, volunteer opportunities and more.  Hopefully your student can find a school that offers a lot of value for the price paid.
  6. Statistics – You can also look at the final college choice by measuring meaningful statistics such as the 4-year or 6-year graduation rate, the freshman retention rate, the percentage of graduates who find full-time employment within 6 months, and more. is a good place to find these statistics.

There are lots of considerations for you and your student when finishing the college search process.  Encourage your student to attend Admitted Student Days to do a final assessment on the schools he or she is considering.  Hopefully one school will stand out ahead of the others and feel like the right choice, all things considered.