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Applying to College? Top 10 Factors to Consider.

It’s a rainy Thursday afternoon at the end of August 2012.   I’m sitting at my desk in the Guidance office when I receive a phone call from a frantic parent. After introducing herself, she says, all in one breath: “My son is a senior, Mrs. Keilholtz. You need to help us. He hasn’t even looked at colleges yet.

“My husband and I never finished college. I know we’re too late. But I’m trying to help him by checking out schools online. I don’t know where to begin! What is the best fit? Should he just go to the local community college? It’s cheaper.”

After assuring the Mom that I hear her concerns, I invite her to come to a meeting with her son later that day so that I can share the top 10 factors to consider when applying to college. Together we can plan their college search and selection process.

Unfortunately, this kind of parent communication is an all-too-common occurrence in guidance offices today. Well-intentioned parents with-out college degrees often feel ill-equipped to help their child, and reach out to their child’s guidance counselor for support.

Even parents who did graduate college report being overwhelmed by today’s college admission process. Too many parents don’t receive the information and support they so desperately want at their child’s guidance office.

It’s not the counselor’s fault; the average caseload for guidance counselors frequently exceeds 350 students, which means that most counselors are overwhelmed themselves, and don’t have time to give your child the support they need and deserve.

So what can you, as parents, do now to help your student with the college selection process? What factors are important to you and your student in choosing a college? Should cost or location be your number one consideration? And, what is ‘best fit’?

These are all good questions and ones the entire family should discuss. I know the senior’s goals, dreams, and needs are the primary consideration in the selection process, but their decision is going to impact everyone else in the family. For younger siblings, it also gives them a chance to learn about the process that they will soon be going through.

Before looking at schools, most students consider these four factors that usually determine what is considered ‘best fit:’

1. Location of the college
How far away from home do you want to be?

2. Size of the college
a. Small – under 2,000 students
b. Medium – 2,000 to 20,000 students
c. Large – Over 20,000

3. Cost of the college
What is the percentage of aid that most students can expect from the college?

4. Whether the college has your major
If not your exact major, does the college have a similar major that would help you meet your career goals?

While these factors are certainly important, here are some other important facts to keep in mind:

According to the report Help Wanted from Georgetown University’s Center for Education and the Workforce, by the year 2018 the United States will need at least 4.7 million new workers with postsecondary certificates. Ultimately, we know that some college is better than no college, but a college degree and/or a graduate degree will position you for more options and more advancement in this new global economy.

This means that when you are putting together your college list, you need to consider your ability to graduate. So, what does the college do to help students stay on track?

Here are six more ‘best-fit’ factors to consider:
5. The retention and graduation rates of the collegebest fit colleges
What are these rates for students in your demographic, i.e. white females?

6. The employment rates for graduates with your major

7. Career services available to you

8. Safety

9. Internship opportunities
Relevant experience in your field is important, especially when you are trying to get a job.

10. Academic services
What supports are in place to help you with writing that paper or math class?

Create an excel spreadsheet with all of the factors that you want to consider in choosing a college will help determine which schools to keep on the list.

Choosing the right college is one of the most important decisions students and families will make. Finding the best fit, however, is not always easy and can be a stressful process. This is where an Independent Educational Consultant, such as myself, can help. Working together with the family, the guidance counselor and the student, I provide the additional personalized attention and individual service outside of the normal school hours. I work closely with the student to ensure a great match and support students in staying organized and on schedule. Contact me if I can help you through the process.

Want to know how I can help?  Click here.

Feeling overwhelmed and would like more assistance with the admissions process?
Please contact me at 240-285-1920 or