Every March thousands of high school seniors anxiously wait for acceptance notices from the colleges to which they applied. Once all the acceptance notices are in, most have multiple choices. There is no magic formula to help make the decision easy, but there are some things you can do to help make the process of deciding less daunting.
- Cost. A student’s actual expenses can vary based on their residency, academic level, major or program of study, living situation and lifestyle. The published cost of attendance is an estimated average, not a price tag.
- Weigh the financial aid package offered from each institution. College A may be the first-choice school but offers significantly less money than college B. Negotiate with college A – many times a college will increase its offer in order to entice a student to attend.
- Compute the cost of a four-year undergraduate education from each college on the accepted list. Determine how much money will be paid directly out of pocket, how much money needs to be paid back after graduation, and who is responsible for the loan, the parents or the student.
- A frank and honest discussion needs to be conducted to weigh the financial reality of the cost of attending each college.
- Consideration also needs to be given to the education level required for your teen’s chosen profession. If a graduate degree is needed, it should enter into the discussion now. Some families will pay for the undergraduate degree but not for a graduate degree. Others prefer to pay for both with a cap on the overall amount paid. Again, a frank discussion with your teen is needed. By putting all the “cards on the table” now, you are allowing your teen to take ownership of his or her future and be part of the decision-making process.
- Think through the “soft costs” associated with each college before making the final decision. They can add an additional 10-15% each year. These costs can include:
- Transportation cost. Can your teen drive or take a train vs. taking an airplane to/from college?
- The cost of purchasing appropriate winter clothing if needed.
- The cost of storing items over the summer if the campus is not close enough to transport items back and forth.
- Will your teen be able to come home easily for major holidays or family functions? If not, how will s/he feel about missing these events?
- It may come down to what “feels” right for the student. Many times it is the small intangible things that make a college seem a better fit.
- Go back and visit the top three or four schools that are most appealing. To help formulate your decision, let your teen take another look at each campus, the dorms, the education available in his or her major, the honors program if admitted, clubs and/or sports offered for participation as a consumer.
- Finally, listen to your teen’s “gut.” It usually speaks volumes.
Andrea K. Frimmer, M.Ed.
Prep 4 College Now, Inc.
If you have any questions about selecting a college, or the admissions process, feel free to contact me through my website at www.Prep4CollegeNow.com or call me at 760.877.7200. I’d love to answer your questions!