Now that the school year is in full swing, high school seniors are getting a jump on college applications and juniors are starting to seriously think about which colleges they may want to apply to.
Here are three important tips to consider when college is around the corner:
1. Set foot on campus
My twelfth-grade AP English teacher gave all of her students this piece of advice for selecting a college: always, always go to the colleges you are seriously considering attending. Take a trip, do a campus tour, try to get a feel for the atmosphere. Remember, you will be spending a lot of time there – it needs to feel right.
When I had narrowed down my college choices to two universities, I was seriously leaning toward the one that was out-of-state. However, after doing a campus tour of each school, I knew I actually felt better at the university closest to home. As soon as I stepped foot on that campus, I knew it was the right place for me. It turned out that what had sounded great on paper about the out-of-state school just didn’t feel right in person.
2. Never rule out your “backup” plan
Most students apply to several schools that they really want to go to and then a couple of “backups.” Those backups are typically schools they assume will be easy to get into.
In this economy, however, that mentality is dangerous. With the increase in budget cuts every year, the college acceptance process is much more competitive than it has ever been. What once may have been an “easy” school to get into is not likely easy anymore.
Just be sure to keep an open mind and apply to more schools than you think you need to. It can’t hurt.
3. Stay within your means (or your realistic future projected means)
Ivy League schools are wonderful… if you can afford them. Oftentimes, students get so hung up on the name of a school that they forget important details, like the cost of tuition when applying.
For those of you getting scholarships and grants, you may be able to choose a more elite, thus more expensive, school. But for the majority, cost needs to be a factor. While it is perfectly fine to take out student loans, the amount of the loan, the interest rates available, and your projected future income need to be considered.
For instance, a student who plans to be a teacher and needs to take out a loan for all four years is going to have a hard time paying back an Ivy League student loan on a teacher’s salary. Just be reasonable and realistic. We all need to live within our means and there is certainly nothing wrong with making cost a deciding factor.
The big takeaway to express to your teen is that college isn’t just the first away-from-home experience they will have, it’s the beginning of their career. Sure, they’ll get to party and make lifelong friends, but they’ll also be learning skills that will get them a career.
By choosing the right school, they’ll ensure they have a solid foundation for the road ahead. Planning for costs and comfort should be big deciding factors in where they choose to go.