Well, the decisions have arrived. High school seniors across America and the globe have their “fat” and “skinny” envelopes and their good- and bad-news emails. Some even have been consigned to the purgatory of the dreaded waitlist, which in some ways is worse than being denied admission (or “rejected,” as the common parlance goes).
But having a an embarrassment of riches in the form of multiple acceptances can also be perplexing. Once the euphoria of all that good news subsides, it’s time for some serious decision making. The BIG question for seniors (and their families) is: Where should I go?
Perhaps the central issue these days (although is has always been an issue) is money. The state of the American and world economy is such that many seniors must make a decision about which college offer to accept in conjunction with Mom and Dad. It’s a crucial decision that will affect both the parents and the student for possibly years to come. Yes, I’m alluding to that hot topic of student loans, which I’ve written about here on my blog. The consequences of signing up for loans can be quite troubling sometimes and can have a seemingly endless effect on both students and parents.
At the risk of quoting myself here on Admit This!, I’d like to share some excellent thoughts about making that all-important college-choice decision.
Emily Driscoll, writing on the Fox Business Money 101 site, did a nice roundup of advice from professionals in the field of college advising (yours truly included). Take a moment to check out these thoughts. They might add an important element to your college decision making process. Here are some highlights:
Family Affair: Making a College Decision
As college admission acceptance letters start arriving in mailboxes across the country, many high school seniors are narrowing down their choices to hit the common May 1 decision deadline.
Students accepted to multiple schools may feel anxious about making the “right” decision. College is a big investment of time, money and commitment, and students can benefit from their family’s perspective and advice on how to find the right fit for them, says Lynn O’Shaughnessy, college expert and author of The College Solution …
“Everyone should be candid and honest and assess the pros and cons of different schools,” she says. “I think the parents can help bring the kids down to earth.” …
Openly discuss the student’s considerations
While students may have a list of “dream” schools in mind, every high school senior should keep his or her parents informed on their rationale for selecting and applying to those schools, says Dave Berry, senior advisor at College Confidential.
“This not only saves what I call “acceptance letter agony”–in other words, getting into an Ivy that’s impossible to afford–but also creates a more cooperative and considerate atmosphere between student and parents,” he says.
Parents shouldn’t push their alma mater
If students are applying to schools that their parents, siblings, or other relatives attended at one point in time, students shouldn’t feel pressured to attend that school solely to carry on the family’s alumni status, says Jeremy Hyman, co-author of The Secrets of College Success.
“They could have gone to college 20 or 30 years ago and colleges have changed tremendously in certain cases,” Hyman says. “Let your child be an individual—keep in mind that you’re not the one going to college.”
Proximity to home
Whether it’s the parents who don’t want their child to be too far away, or the student wants to remain close to home, experts recommend students cross state lines in their search for the right school. …
Discuss the cost
Although the sticker price of a school does not always reflect what families will actually pay, cost is often a major factor in the decision-making process. Parents who are footing the bill may have the mindset that if they are shelling out big bucks, they should have heavy influence on the student’s decision, says Hyman.
While students should explore all available federal student loan options, Berry stresses how important it is that parents be upfront with their prospective college students about the family’s financial situation and how that will affect their choice of school.
“If parents can open up to their children about the consequences of going into debt for college costs, then the applicants might become more sensitive to the impact of enrollment decisions,” he says. “This is possible only when both parents and student can be open and honest about expectations and realities.”
Consider a last-minute visit
A family visit to a campus can help student narrow down and clarify a couple questions in the decision.
“My motto for seniors has always been, ‘you’ve got to trod the sod!’ That’s the only true way to know if you can see yourself on campus,” says Berry.
Despite familial clashes that are common between parents and their teenagers, Hyman explains that making a rational, well thought out college decision together requires both parties to put emotions aside. …
… Berry says that parents and students should come to a “negotiated settlement” between the two perspectives.
“In other words, it should be the best possible compromise between what the student wants (best match, best offerings for a major, location, etc.) and what the family (and student) can afford.”
So, you can see that, to bend a phrase, no senior is an island. Or at least should be an island. A decision as imposing as where to go to college needs multiple viewpoints. That’s where Mom and Dad come in. What used to be “the $64,000 question” is in some cases now “the quarter-million-dollar question.” Heavy, huh?
Be sure to check out all my college-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.