If you have a high school student at home, chances are you’re thinking a lot about college. Where’s your child going to go to school? Will he or she get in? Linda Morgan, editor of ParentMap magazine and author of the book, Beyond Smart, shares what to consider before your son or daughter fills out that college application.
Why has getting into a good college become so important to kids and their parents?
There’s a lot of competitiveness going on – from getting our kids in the right preschools to making sure they attend what we think are the “right” colleges. Some parents think it’s important their kids be the top of the top in everything – for them, parenting has become a competitive sport. We’re feeling the pressure: When we hear about other parents giving their kids lessons, sports, tutoring and everything else, we feel like slackers.
Will your child be more successful in life if she attends a brand-name school?
Studies have not really supported this; there’s no proven economic advantage to attending a top-ranked school. And those students – the ones who get into the most prestigious schools – don’t necessarily get to the top in their careers. What studies do show is that hard-working, ambitious students will do well wherever they go.
What should students look for in a college?
They should look for a good fit and which school is the best one for them. College is a match to be made, not a prize to be won. There’s a college for everyone. You and your kids should consider what their abilities and strengths are, what they want out of life, and what kind of college life and community are they really looking for. Do they need a more nurturing environment or a place they can operate pretty independently? A college that’s known for a particular focus, such as computer science or theater?
“Authentic” seems to be the buzz word these days. So get involved in activities you really like, not because you think the colleges will like them. And start planning your essays around what you think and who you are.
Visit college web sites and if you can, visit the campus. When you do, sit in on classes, eat in the dining hall and hang around in the student centers. That will help you imagine yourself as part of the community. Talk to a few students and ask if they would make the same college choice if they had to do it again.
Do the math
Think about finances. Get a clear picture of the costs. Factor in tuition, class fees, housing, and meal plans. Look into financial aid and scholarships. Find out how to apply, when the deadlines are and consider other costs such as housing, transportation and books.
There’s not just one school you will like and there’s probably more than one you’ll be able to get into. Most colleges are not highly selective. And parents - remember who’s attending – that would be your child, not you.