Search “finding the best college” and you’ll be bombarded with tons of tips, advice and strategies on finding the best college for your child. The reality, is that the “best” college is the one that is “best for your child”. Focusing on these five steps is a way to begin to figure out how to begin to determine that for your child.
Step #1: Start Early
It is never too early to “window-shop” for colleges. By giving your child the opportunity to spend time on a college campus, you are helping to paint a picture of what a college experience could look like. It also provides a tangible goal to work towards and helps them to create a connection between their middle school and high school experience and how that can have an impact on creating their choices for college. Arranging a tour during a family vacation, visiting a sibling or a friend’s older sibling at college or even attending an event at a local college in your area are all ways to begin to “plant the seed” for your child.
Step #2: Focus on who they are and what they love
Encourage your child to explore their unique interests, activities and hobbies and use those to think about how they want to expand on that through their college experience. This will help them to have more clarity about what they’re looking for, as well as to know when they’ve found the college that best provides that for them.
Step #3: Enlist The Help Of College Planning Resources.
There are a great deal of resources (this can be a link to my resource page) available on the subject of college planning and many ways to begin to familiarize yourself and your child with the process. In particular, www.collegeboard.org provides support on everything from college planning to college testing and financial aid and career assessment.
Step #4: Talk To Your Network About The College Planning Process.
Ask fellow parents whom you trust and admire for their advice on the college planning process. Ask them what they liked about the process, what tips and resources they can offer. It is a great way to learn from the experiences of others and compare those experiences with what your child may encounter down the road.
Step #5: Ask For Help.
The pathway to college is one of the first big decisions in your child’s life. It is an opportunity to both provide them with the resources and information they need, and support them in building their confidence and independence to make choices on their own. Asking for help from counselors, independent consultants or other professional resources allows you to let your child take the lead while you continue to be a resource, as well as support, encourage and champion their accomplishments.