Our oldest child is a junior in high school, so by this time next year we will know where she will be heading for college. College has been a major goal since before she was born, so it’s amazing to all of us that she is so close. But even though my wife and I are college grads, and even though I have spent 25 years as an educator, the process she is jumping into….of choosing a school, navigating admissions, applying for financial aid, and selecting the place that will be part of her identity for the rest of your life…is BIG.
Safety First. The only limit I’ve imposed upon her search is safety: Whether she decides to stay close to home or to move a plane ride away, to go in-state public or out-of-state private, my main concern is that she is as safe as possible on campus. That means Google searches about crime and safety on campuses, and consideration of whether a campus is its own world or blends into a town or city.
Her Priorities. Our daughter’s approach to the college search has been interesting–she is mostly interested in larger schools, but she is wary of colleges that she considers “party schools.” Otherwise, her pool of schools has been relatively easy to fill, as her intended majors are offered almost everywhere, and “study abroad”–one of her plans since she was very young–has become far more common than it was when I was and undergrad in the ’80s.
College Visits. So far we have only dabbled in college visits. Her rigorous junior year course work and club volleyball schedule mean it is hard to take a weekend away. But we have started to mix the volleyball tournament schedule with the college search–resulting in the surprising but definitive elimination of what had been one of her short-list schools a few weeks ago. And summer is coming…
Admission Mystery? Trusting in the consistent messages from college admissions staff, the keys to modern college admissions are solid test scores, good grades, and–the easiest factor to control–a RIGOROUS high school schedule. The days of padding a GPA by taking an easier path are gone, with many colleges actually re-calculating each applicant’s GPA according to their own standards–focusing on academic classes and adding weight for honors and Advanced Placement. But time will tell.
As we work through the next year, there will be plenty to learn about applications, financial aid, and scholarships, and our daughter will have to make a big decision. It’s going to be an interesting year with one clear goal: that she winds up in the right school…wherever that is.