Choosing Potential Colleges

Your child may find that selecting the schools they want to apply to is one of the most challenging steps of the admissions process. After all, there are currently thousands of colleges in the U.S., and your child must consider a variety of factors when making this important decision.

During their junior year, your child should start drafting a list of potential colleges. The goal of this initial list is to narrow down your child’s options to approximately 12 to 24 schools. Later, your child should trim this list even further to about 10 to 12 options. These options should vary in their selectivity, including relatively safe as well as more competitive schools. Your child should strive to create a diverse and balanced list of potential colleges or universities.

In general, the two most important factors that your child must consider are their own profile and the school’s characteristics.

Your Child’s Profile

Your child should look for schools that match their academic objectives. To find such schools, your child should reflect on what they want to accomplish in college and how they plan on reaching those goals. For instance, if your child wants to pursue civil engineering, they should focus on schools with outstanding engineering programs. The education your child receives at college should also help them achieve their career objectives, such as founding a successful company.

Personal preferences and values are also important. When crafting their list, your child should consider their own personality. For example, are they more comfortable in larger or smaller classes? Is the school nearby to family and friends? Will the college’s community fulfill your child’s need for social interaction? Do the school’s student-led organizations align with your child’s interests? Would your child feel comfortable with the college’s overall political identity? Does your child prefer the amenities offered by large cities or the quiet of smaller towns? These and other personal factors should help your child find the colleges that suit them best.

The School’s Characteristics

When making their list, your child will need to gather basic information about each potential school. In general, the school’s characteristics will depend on whether it is publicly or privately funded. State-funded schools tend to have lower tuition costs and a much larger student body. In contrast, private schools enroll fewer students but usually offer more robust financial aid opportunities. The number of programs offered by the college or university will also depend on how it is funded.

For many families, cost is one of the most important factors to consider. Even though the cost often depends on whether the school is public or private, each school is unique and offers different financial aid opportunities. Further, the financial aid available to each student will vary. Your child’s grades, test scores, accomplishments, and other factors could make them qualify for scholarships, grants, or a larger financial aid package.

The school’s size will have a bearing on your child’s experience. For instance, larger schools tend to have more majors, higher athletics rankings, and a broader range of opportunities. Smaller schools, however, usually possess a stronger sense of community, smaller class sizes, and more accessible professors. Additionally, your child should consider whether the school’s diversity, campus culture, and history would be a good fit for them. Would your child feel comfortable with the college’s diversity in terms of nationality, gender, ethnicity and race, religion, and other factors?

Crafting this list may seem like a daunting task. Still, if your child considers their personality, interests, academics, and goals, creating a list of suitable schools won’t be as difficult as it may seem. For more information on how to choose potential colleges, visit our admissions blog.