College Search Tips for Families
We asked parents who have already been through the college selection process with their high school seniors for tips about the college search process. Here is what they told us.
1. Check Out College Websites
It’s never too early to begin the college search. You can compare colleges easily by looking at their websites. When you begin the search through college websites, be sure to review the academic opportunities, take a virtual tour, and check out the career services and student services pages. Colleges cannot capture everything on a website, but the information can help you add or remove colleges from your list to narrow it down.
2. Consider the Cost
Before you set your affections on a particular college, it is best to consider what it will cost and whether the cost is affordable for you. Calculating the total cost of tuition, room, board, and fees after your high school senior’s scholarships are applied is a good place to begin. It is also a wise idea to check which scholarships the college can award your student. Be sure to compare all the offers when you receive award letters from various colleges. Once you file the FAFSA, you might qualify for additional assistance. Always consider the return on investment (ROI) as well, including career outcomes, job placement rates, and postgraduate success.
3. Visit the College
Location is more than the distance from home; it is the community setting, the ease of navigating campus, the seasons, and the amenities that match the needs of your college-bound senior. When you visit a campus, you can explore beyond the tour by sitting in on a class, learning about the social atmosphere, and sampling the food. The college visit is where you personalize your college search experience.
4. Have an Honest Conversation
You will collect a great deal of information during your college search, so it is important that you have an honest conversation with your student. Here are some guidelines:
Don't pressure your student to choose a particular school
Don't compare your student’s choices to others’ choices
Be quick to listen and slow to give advice
Give your student as much decision-making autonomy as you can
5. Focus on Finding the Right Fit
Once your student enrolls, you want them to be happy, continue their education, and graduate with a degree. Finding the right fit the first time saves time and money. College size and type can be very individual, so investigate colleges of various sizes for the most informed choice.
Updated for 2023 by Annie Seboe