06/18/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

HelpingYour Son or Daughter Select a College? Use The Genius of Their Instinct, Not a College Advisor!

Every year the college selection process becomes more prevalent in America, and every year, tens of thousands of students are ready to transfer after their first year on the grounds they made the wrong choice.

If you are the parent of a college bound student, before you spend a lot of money on a college advisor, help your college bound student use their shelter-seeking instinct -- the hard-wired tool given to all of us by Mother Nature to help guide us into an environment that promotes our growth so we can thrive -- not simply survive.

First, help your college bound student go beyond her SAT scores by getting her to tune in to her emotional nutrients -- the elements that will help her grow. Do this by having frequent conversations centered on her interests, her aspirations. Get him to think about some college logistics -- the size of the school, geographical locations, and most importantly, what he or she wants a school to offer them.

Too many parents and their children focus on "what are the best schools I can get into," whereas shelter-seeking instincts say your selection will be better when you focus on seeking schools that can offer you what you need -- special help, financial assistance -- nutrients that might not be available from on the of the best schools you can get into. In other words, the best school a college bound student can get into is not necessarily the right school. Shelter seeking tells you to help your son or daughter pick the right school, not necessarily the best school.

Studying brochures and speaking to college advisers and college counselors are useful activities, but to help children maximize shelter-seeking instincts, encourage them to experience, to feel the environments they are thinking of entering for the next four years of their life.

More than just walking the campus and going on the morning or afternoon tour, encourage your kids to do more, such as attending a class, visiting a friend who goes to the school and spending the night, or eating meals with other students. You get the idea -- you want to help your son or daughter sense the environment by getting them to see, hear, and feel the college environment he or she is considering and this is best done by spending time in the environment, not just visiting it.

Next, interview them about their college visits, your goal being to help them clarify their feelings and thoughts about their experience. Make sure you ask them to compare and contrast the experiences of their visits, and how they felt with and about the other kids, impressions of class difficulty, the college town itself. Use sensory questions: "What did you see that you liked and interested you? " "What did you hear your friends and other students say?" "How did you feel being there?" Answers to these questions help your college-bound child assess whether he or she is making a smart match play. Feeling interested, engaged, and joy are cues your son or daughter is entering an empowering environment.

Shelter-seeking for the right college environment is a time consuming process, but it is well worth it since the right environment helps your children grow.

I'd like to hear how you help your child find the right school.