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Picking the right college for your kids

by Karin Schroeck-Singh

What advice would you give your child
when picking a college or university?

Well, being a parent myself makes me wonder what advice I will give my daughter once she will be a grown up. I do strongly believe that in twenty years time students will attend their college or university online - attending virtual lecture rooms - rather than on campus. And students might not ask themselves "What college will accept me?" but "What college/university will I accept?" However, some criteria will remain the same. But let's say my daughter would apply at a college/university next year…. then I would want to make sure to give her as much support and guidance as possible.

Doing research, choosing and applying for the right college/university is an important and often not an easy assignment that many students and parents have to face. It involves a lot of work, such as writing letters, calling up people, doing research, comparing advantages and disadvantages etc.

Let's not forget that the final decision will be made by students, but parents can play an important role in helping and supporting their children to compare and contrast various educational institutions based on their own needs and interests.

First of all, parents should ask themselves some basic questions, such as:

  • What is my child good at?
  • What course would he be most passionate about?
  • Why does my child want to go to college? (Is it really, really his own choice, or is it me who wants him to go? Or is it because he hasn't thought of anything else to do? Hopefully not!)
  • What does he find most satisfying?
  • What is important to him?
  • When does he want to go to college? Sometimes it's better to take some time off (a gap year could be an alternative) and think carefully what he wants to do with his future.

  • Does your child have a clear goal in mind or does he just want to broaden his horizons?

  • Does he want to study in a big institution being an ordinary student or in a small institution but being maybe one of the top students?

  • Does the course structure suit him?

  • Will the learning style suit him?

  • What are the exams like?

  • Where will the course take him (considering his long-term plans)?

  • Does the course stretch him to reach his highest potential? Sometimes it's good to be taken out of your own comfort zone in order to learn how to adapt to new situations, places and people.

  • Would he need some special support of any kind? Would I be able to provide that?

What if … one day - for whatever reason -he decides to give up and not finish his study?

My strategy would be to sit together with my child and each of us would make a list of criteria and a list of personal and educational objectives. Then I would discuss and compare our results. After that, I would compromise until the perfect match is found which suits both of us from:

  • The social perspective

  • The academic perspective

  • and the cultural perspective.

I would say that if a university is perceived as better than others this should not necessarily mean that it will be the best for your child. The same is valid if you studied at a certain university. That also doesn't mean that your child should follow into your footsteps. I did my MBA at the University of Leicester and - to be honest - I would be tempted to send my daughter there, too. But first I would make sure that the course, the location etc. she chooses is really what SHE wants.

Photo 23392

Criteria that parents should consider are as follows:

  • Suitability of courses on offer
  • Qualification needed (entry score)
  • Affordability (tuition and fees, accommodation, social life, etc.)

  • Location (and climate)

  • Facilities

  • Amenities

  • Reputation (ranking and prestige) - Besides ranking lists, what do local companies and the media think of that university?

  • Private or public institution

  • The Campus Setting/Culture

  • Quality of Teaching

  • Quality of Research (for those who want to pursue a PhD later on this might be of interest)

  • Feedback (as rated by graduates)

  • Staff/student ratio

  • Crime rate in that particular city/town

  • Last but not least job prospects and career advice.

Many parents and students invest a lot of time in choosing the right course and the right college but few of them consider the fact whether the university chosen will also assist them in finding a great job, once they graduate. Therefore, it would be advisable to look out whether the university has also a career's advice office.Before you can take a decision every parent/student obviously has to make some kind of research in order to gather information on colleges.

There are various options:

  • College brochures and websites
  • College representatives (Admission Officers
  • Open days
  • College students, faculty or recent alumni
  • Counselors
  • Friends and relatives
  • College fairs/College nights

There are also computer programs and guidebooks which help students to find colleges with the features they want.

Photo 23357I would say that reading a brochure, looking at a league table or website in which every institution tries to sell themselves as the best, will not give you the same feedback as attending an open day. I would consider the visit of an Open Day as a must, once my child would be serious about a particular course and a particular university. I would even suggest going (together with my child obviously) to open days of 2-3 different universities and then I would discuss with my child which one to choose. I would consider this as the most effective way to determine the best choice for my child.

Once the visit of an Open Day is planned the following questions might help to take the right decision:

  • Did the course tutor explain the nature of the course and how it would run over the years?
  • Are there any other extra-curricular opportunities available?
  • How was the open day generally organised and managed? Was it welcoming and professional as announced?
  • Did you get any literature about the university? (Courses, accommodation, Student Union, finances and costs, etc.)?
  • What was the opening speech by the Head of the Department like?
  • Did you get the opportunity to take a tour around the facilities? What were they like?
  • How did the staff behave and present themselves?
  • Were there any current students involved? What were their opinions of the university and the courses?
  • What was your overall impression?
  • Were all your questions answered?

Another question you might have is ""Apple-style-span" style="font-weight: bold;">At how many schools should my child apply"? My personal advice to my daughter would be to make a list of the Top 6 schools. The first two schools would represent her dream schools, then two schools in which she would be likely to be admitted and two schools in which it is a sure bet of being accepted.

Last but not least a personal thought: Going abroad to study gets your child in contact with people from all over the world. It could be that s/he might not just end up with a degree but later on maybe also with a spouse (who studied at the same university). So ask yourself as a parent: How happy would I be, knowing that my child would like to get married to a person from a completely different culture? Would I be fine with that too? Think about it!

Image Credits: Paul Keleher, ^riza^, mictlan, f10n4

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About the Author

About: I’m a certified Business Etiquette Trainer with 13 years of work experience in Recruitment, Office Management, Market Research, Teaching & Training. I love helping individuals and businesses gain a competitive edge by strengthening their professionalism, corporate image and productivity. Furthermore, I’m the podcaster of the MAC Show (The Manners And Career Show) on—> If I’m not on Learnhub, I like to spend time with my family, watch Bollywood movies and use any opportunity to learn and develop myself further. My personality? Ambitious, hardworking, creative, disciplined, great organiser, highly self-motivated, with lots of passion and enthusiasm, always in search of differentiation and trying to exceed expectations. “Enthusiasm is the daily food of successful people. It makes ordinary people EXTRAORDINARY!”

Last Updated At Dec 07, 2012


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