For may families, embarking on the "college tour" - or a series of strategic college visits typically determined by geography -- is an important rite of passage not only for the prospective applicant but also for the parents accompanying the applicant.
Just like anything else in life, when something is a good fit, it works. Students that attend colleges that match their academic, social and financial needs, while still providing an academically challenging environment, are more likely to thrive and graduate on time.
Considering that this is one of the biggest problems I've struggled with personally, I have been on a constant look-up for all wisdom, tools, or advice on how to best tackle decision-making. Personally, I see the problem as two-fold.
he selection of colleges seem to focus and where and how to get the best post-graduation jobs. In order to accommodate (pay for or get into) the best possible college, there is growing acceptance of, and curiosity around, what I call the Two College Strategy.
Don't get me wrong; data is great. It is gratifying to have hard facts and boxes to check. But some commercial lists employ questionable methodology, and the plain truth is that whether a student will thrive at a particular school cannot be determined by an institution's national ranking.
We wouldn't dare give a young person who is just starting out the same advice today about bank interest rates or real estate values that we did ten years ago. So why are we still giving out the same old advice about college?
I can't claim any credit for his final decision to attend a small liberal arts college, but I thought other parents who are facing a similar situation might like to see a shortened version of the letter I sent to my son more than twenty years ago.
"How can I help my daughter choose the right college?" I've been working in college admissions long enough to know there is no perfect answer to this question. But in the moment, I drew upon my 20-plus years of experience to offer some advice.
Remember that college is for you. It's not for your friends. It's not for your family (though if they are helping foot the bill, you do owe them some respect). It's for you. Don't make so many decisions for other people that you forget to make them for yourself
What I recommend to students is to create their own ranking. They should start by writing down what their top wants for a college are such as major, location, size, internships, ability to participate in sports, international study, etc.
As I straddled both sides of the admissions equation, one as decision maker and the other as parent, I was further reminded that beyond what is not within our control (the admission decisions), focusing on core priorities can guide an informative application process.