It’s Friday. This week, we found a solution to the worlds problems and we defined love.
No we didn’t but at least we talked about it- agreed or disagreed- but we opened a dialogue.
But today- I pose the following question: Why is Daughter getting more mail than anyone else in the house?
Ahhhhh- because she’s a Junior in High School. And marketing season has begun. There are approximately 4000 institutes of higher learning in America. I think my daughter has received a brochure or email from 1/2 of them. But have no fear…it’s only October…I’m sure the other 2000 will come through eventually.
Now- I know there are people who are going to say “Wow- that’s early.” But to be fair, we began college shopping this past summer. Again, people are shaking their heads and saying, “Wow, that’s early.” But hear me out- if you see a school that you like that seems out of reach, you can still make a push in Junior Year- colleges want to see an upward trajectory. You still have a shot at that school- but if you wait till Senior year- you may not.
But…there’s a lot to think about when choosing a college. This is my one and only daughter, and we’re just starting the process, but I’m going to share what we’ve learned so far .
- Cost- Have you seen the cost of college? Seriously- there is no way a kid is going to come out of school with a salary that comes close to what some of these schools are charging per year. So you need to decide how much you want to spend, and how much debt you want to incur. Maybe you need college,(personally- I’m not so sure you actually need it- but that’s a whole other blog) but how much do you want to owe? FYI- each college has a net cost calculator to give you an idea as to what the school expects you to pay. And you have to look at colleges that are willing to give you merit aid- if you choose a college where the average student has a lower average, this school may be willing to entice you with grants and such.
- Location- this is more important to some than others. My daughter wants a school that is Urban, or in a town center. She has grown up using mass transit- she would not feel comfortable in a rural environment. But others would not do well in a city, so you have to find what is comfortable for you. And…how far away is the school from where you live? Do you want to be across country? Do you want to be an hour away? Do you want to take a flight home or drive or bus or train? My daughter really doesn’t want to be west of Chicago, but her best friend is set on California….all depends…..
- Size- how many undergraduates do you want? My daughter is looking at between 5000 and 10000 undergraduates. She feels this is a good number for her. The schools in this range tend to have somewhat lower teacher:student ratios. That is important to her. Some students may want less, others more. Figure out what size is right for you.
- Field of study- Do you have an inkling what you would like to study? My daughter wants humanities, so a tech or heavy science school is not in the cards for her. If you don’t know what you want, you are probably better off at a somewhat larger school where it is easy to sample many different things, and you don’t need to reapply to different schools within the school. Be prepared- say you decide after Freshman year that you want to be an engineer, you may have to add a year to college- a major like that has a lot of requirements and course sometimes have to be taken sequentially.
- Greek system. How important are frats and sororities? My kid- she’s actually looking at schools that offer no Greek life, or where less than 20% of students are involved. It’s not her thing. But it could be someone else’s. Everyone is different.
- Sports. Do you want a school where everyone is at the football game on the weekend? Do you want to be involved in March Madness? Do you want to be immersed in a culture where sports is important? My daughter is leaning towards sports lite schools, but that’s not a deal breaker.
- Academic intensity- do you want a school where the kids are really competitive towards grades? All colleges are academic, but some are more academic than others. Be honest with yourself- which environment is better?
- Party school- let’s face it- some kids want an active social life. Some schools are better at this than others. We went on a tour of a small New England Liberal Arts school- one student said “How is Tuesday night different than Friday night?” The tour guide looked at the student and said- there really is no difference. The student asking knew right away that this was not the ideal choice for them.
- Extra curricular- Are you passionate about something and want to pursue it at college, but not as a course of study? Maybe you love pottery for fun, and want a pottery club at school…..you can find a college with a club that shares your interest.
- Ranking- how is the college ranked in the various books and articles. Is being at a ranked school important? Do you want to attend a school where the name is recognizable? These schools are REALLY hard to get into- many of them have an acceptance rate of less than 15% (and that’s being generous). Kids applying to these schools have been thinking about it since Freshman year- they are prepared. And even if they are prepared, most of them are not going to get accepted. That’s the reality.
And at the end of the day- you must remember- going to college does not guarantee success. The joke at Harvard is that Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Matt Damon never graduated, yet they are by pretty much any standard considered successful. You will only get out of life as much as you put into it.
Sure, college might open some doors, but if you enter a room, you still need to work and plan and do things. No one hands you money just because you went to college. No one hands you anything. A diploma is not necessarily a golden ticket.
Unfortunately, I will be talking about college a lot. I can’t help it- this whole year is college centric and sometimes I’m going to need to vent in a public forum. I need to give myself a reality check every once in awhile.
Peace and love