4 Major Things to Know When Your Child is Applying for College
Working with your child to apply for college is an exciting, albeit occasionally overwhelming task. With so many options available all around the country, how do you figure out which school is the right fit? Let’s take a look at four key points to keep in mind during the process.
1. The Fit Factor
Many excellent institutions of higher learning are situated throughout the US. However, even the best school may not be the best particular fit for your child. Hence, fit is a key factor to consider. Does the university of interest offer the major(s) he or she is interested in? Are they renowned for their STEM offerings? Does the location match your particular needs (e.g. attending a school that is close to family)? Check out the list of majors offered and special programs (i.e. combined undergraduate and Master’s programs). If you want to study journalism or engineering, it’s essential to know that those majors are offered at the school you’re applying to! Also, fit also comes into play when you consider a school’s admissions statistics. There’s no harm in applying to a school and seeing if things pan out, but it would be against a student’s best interest to apply exclusively to “reach” schools that accept students with extremely high qualifications. A university webpage will often provide a profile of their student body, and potential applicants can use this data as a guide when they work on applications.
2. Opportunities on Campus and Beyond
Of course, it’s important to remember how you child’s attendance at a particular college or university would influence the variety of opportunities that will be available for them. Academics form the core of the college experience, but the ability to participate in other activities, including internships, research, part-time jobs, extracurricular activities, various campus clubs, and initiatives within the larger surrounding community, is an important component to consider when selecting a school. Let’s take a look at a couple examples. Are you interested in jobs in the tech sector or finance? Find out whether the school you’re applying to offers job fairs or recruitment sessions. Many schools will have specific times during the year where prominent companies will visit campus and allow interested students to share their resumes and discuss career opportunities. Are you interested in a career in science or medicine? Research your school carefully to figure out whether they have graduate programs available in your field of interest. An associated medical school or basic science laboratories equip undergraduate students with chances to conduct high level research early on.
3. Understanding the Financial Landscape
According to the New York Times, total student debt surpasses other major forms of debt, including car loans and credit card debt. Avoiding overwhelming debt is critical for long term well-being. Parents can provide the wisdom and foresight younger students sorely need to avoid falling into debt traps. A private school that will set one back several hundred thousand dollars after a four-year degree is perilous for all except the wealthiest and those with large scholarships. All students can fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). In addition, it’s worth exploring what options your particular state may offer for aid. As an example, students in New York can apply for TAP (Tuition Assistance Program). They may also apply for the Excelsior scholarship, a recently introduced program that allows attendees of CUNY and SUNY schools to receive comprehensive financial aid for their undergraduate tuition (if they meet the criteria laid out).
4. Constructing a Strong Application
Finally, there are some common, basic principles that anyone looking to apply to a college can keep in mind. It’s no secret that the admissions process continues to become more and more competitive with each passing year. To build a well-rounded, competitive application, one should shore up their bases in several areas. A strong high school transcript is an excellent place to start. Avoiding failures as much as possible, getting high grades, taking advance level / college classes (i.e. Advanced Placement courses), and maintaining a positive reputation at school are helpful. Standardized test scores still matter (SAT or ACT), as do letters of recommendation, well-written essays, and meaningful extracurricular activities.