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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > How to Find the Right College
I'm wondering what role other parents have played in assisting your college-bound student in his/her final selection of colleges. We are awaiting word from the top two choices. Our daughter has applied to eleven schools and gotten in to six to date, one wait-list and three no's. She isn't in love with any of the six, although of the six, I think some are better than others for her. There is no real stand-out, and everything feels like a bit of a compromise. We did the whole college tour thing, and she is drawn to one school because she loved the professor she met in the area of her particular interest. But it's not as strong a school as some of the others. One of the ones I really liked she didn't like at all, was in a rotten mood on the day we visited, and said she'd never go there so I should stop bothering her. It is her choice, mostly, but I am footing the big bill here and think I should have some say. But how much and what? I'm also not even sure which would be the best fit and don't know how to evaluate. Everyone's anectodes are so personal and there is so much contradiction among my friends (all the way from ''this school has really weak academics and the town there has no culture and my daughter couldn't leave fast enough'' to ''I have friends whose kids went there and loved every minute of it and are going back for grad school.'') I'm also dealing with my own feelings about her not getting into one of the more selective schools that we thought she had a great shot at. It feels like a complicated decision and I'm not sure how to support her and help her look at all aspects and long-term implications of her choice. All the schools are back East and we haven't been able to visit them all. Confused, wanting to help make the right choice
if she isn't getting into any of her first choices, that will be sad enough for her, i think you should reassure her and hide your own disappointment. your job is to help her feel good about where she has gotten into and acknowledge how many places accepted her. a smart kid can stand out, get a lot of positive attention and really blossom at a less competitive college. if she had her heart set on somewhere else, she can always transfer after putting in a great year at another college.
big picture: sounds like you have a good kid who tries hard. you should celebrate that. judith
If your daughter can rule out a few of the 6 schools, that would be helpful in narrowing in. If she really disliked a school, it is not wise to push it just because you liked it! You are not the one who will be attending, and being forced to go to a school that your daughter has emphatically ruled out could make her hate it (and hate you) if she was forced to attend.
Knowing that she could go to a school where there is a wonderful professor in her area of interest could be a strong plus for that school. But this is one factor among many and you can point that out to her as she makes out a list of pros and cons.
She should create a chart with the pros and cons of each school. You can have a row or two in the chart to put in info about the academic strength of the school or some other value important to you. But then she gets to evaluate the pros and cons and should start to rank-order the schools based on her opinions and how much she weights different pros and cons. When she is able to rank the top two schools, she should go visit them again if possible. Then she can make the final decision. I wouldn't consider a school that she has never visited.
You could tell her that you would love to hear her explain to you the pros and cons of each school and how she arrived at her top two rankings. That will help you see her thinking and perhaps allow you to ask a few questions.
The reason there are contradictions in personal anecdotes is because every person is different and some children love one school while others hate it. Also, what the child wants out of college may vary tremendously between children. So in the end, she has to decide.
Nothing is perfect, there isn't always one ''best fit,'' but rather several that would work well for different reasons. So if you can help her understand that, it will be beneficial. Good luck to her (and you)! Anonymous
I remember my daughter's first day at UC Santa Cruz. Everyone was so warm and friendly...but then her roommate was a dud and she could never break into the friendships happening on her dorm floor. The next day we took her boyfriend to UC Davis. No one was very friendly. But he ended up making dozens of friends among his dorm mates. Ultimately, both have had perfectly good educations and enjoyed their respective schools. And now they're graduating and life goes on.
You really have no control over how things will go for her. She might fall in with great friends her first year, or none. She might have awesome professors or end up with a bunch of snorers. A university is a huge place and ultimately it will be the experience she makes of it. Give her the tools to make it a good experience and overall, it probably will be. wherever you go, there you are
I teach high school seniors and I know plenty of students who got into their dream schools, went there, hated it, and transferred. I know just as many that went to a second or third choice school and loved it. I think the worst thing parents can do is to make young people feel like this is the most important decision they will ever make in their entire lives. It is not. And unless your kid wants to be President and needs to write for the Harvard Law Review, they will probably be just fine regardless of where they go to college their freshman year. Even Obama transferred schools as an undergrad. --Feelin your pain, tryin to remain calm
Our daughter has (thankfully) begun to receive her college acceptances, and I am hoping to help her make the very best possible choice. She has worked with a great college admissions advisor at her local private school, and this counselor has recommended that our daughter apply to some schools that are relatively unknown to us. Thus, I would so welcome any feedback on any aspect of the academic and/or social life at any of the following schools: Mt. Holyoke in Northampton, MA; Muhlenberg in Allentown, PA; Emerson in Boston; Evergreen in Tacoma, WA; Wheaton in Mass; and Drew University in Madison, NJ. How would you describe the values of the student body? What are the towns like nearby? Dorm life? Our daughter is interested in Theater Arts, Classics, Latin, History, English and Literature. Math, not so much. She's introverted, literate, smart, and absolutely not a party animal. She's applied to other schools I haven't listed because I have a better take on them (Brandeis, Oberlin, etc). I know I'm asking about a lot of schools but we're having a hard time getting to know these colleges despite reading things like College Confidential and making campus visits. Really appreciate any commentary. And if you know of a current student that would be open to chatting with a prospective student, that would really be an added bonus. We can be reached at jump at the sun at earthlink.net. Thanks so much!
Our daughter is a senior in high school and in the thick of applying to college. She has sorted through a number of schools, we have made school visits, and she is whittling down her list. We met some time ago with a very knowledgeable college advisor, who said that our daughter would probably end up at a school we'd never heard of. Here we are, in late September/early October, and it's really time to pull this all together and commit to the list of schools and complete the applications. Here's the issue that I'd like help with: I have this (bad) feeling that my kid's list is incomplete, that the college that would be the best fit is somehow missing from our list, that it may be - in the words of the counselor - a school we've never heard of, and that I don't know how to find it. She's looking for a small liberal arts college, near or in a big city, maybe on the East Coast; she'd like to study literature, classics, take Latin, and she loves musical theater. She doesn't have the grades for a very top-tier school (Brown, Amherst, Williams) but she's a good, solid student with a very solid B+ average and good scores on the SAT (well, at least on the language/essay sections). I'm not sure what to do, to leave her alone and let her apply to her small list (maybe five or six schools); I know she's chatting with her counselor at school, but I feel like it's my job to provide guidance and support here and I'm sort of haunted by the feeling that I'm missing something, but can't put my finger on it. Any ideas or suggestions or great schools to consider would be so appreciated. class of 2012
In CA: Occidental (Obama went there, briefly), Scripps MD: Goucher (near Baltimore), NY: Sarah Lawrence (our son is there; half hour by train from Grand Central - he goes to NYC all the time), Fordham (Lincoln Center campus), Eugene Lang (in Manhattan) OR: Lewis and Clark, Reed (both in Portland) PA: Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore (all outside Philadeplphia)Been there, done that
She was an B+/A- student with strong test scores, and while the college app process was stressful, she was in the happy position of being accepted by 6 of 10 colleges, including 2 of 3 UCs, whereas some of her friends who had A/A+ averages, piles of APs, and great test scores completely struck out with the name brand colleges (but fortunately had some UCs in their back pocket).
Do not let college rankings or social prestige drive your daughter's list. There are some outstanding schools that are less well known. Include 2 or 3 name brands IF and only if they really seem like a good fit in terms of student body, school culture, academic offerings, etc. But also use resources like College Prowler or College Board to explore schools which have musical theatre and Latin, for example, accept 25-60% of applicants, & are a good match in terms of her personality. (We kept our list on College Prowler & found that the assessment of what was a good fit, as well as her admission chances, was pretty accurate.)
By the way, another advantage to the lesser known colleges is that they court you - she was offered airfare and hotel stays for 3 colleges & huge merit scholarships at 2 of them...that was nice!
If your daughter would put aside the desire to be in a big city and/or East Coast she could some really great options - Oberlin, Whitman, Bowdoin, Carleton, Davidson, Grinnell, Kenyon, Skidmore, Bard, Beloit, Earlham, Muhlenberg, Colorado College, Emerson - several of which have strong theatre and classics depts. But if the city life is really important to her, maybe consider NYU, Boston College, Boston University, Reed, Lewis & Clark, Macalester, Connecticut College. And don't forget UCSC has a really good theatre arts program!
There is nothing worse than getting a pile of rejection letters just because the choices were guided by prestige rather than a good fit. You're right to wonder about her list...and the counselor is right that she's likely to end up at a college that you might not have heard of, but where she will be very happy, get a great education, make friends for life, and wonder why she ever considered going anywhere else. = Survived the College Apps! =
And if you really want some extra help, most independent college counselors are willing to work with a student just to develop a college list. It costs money, but less than full service from a college counselor. And if your family goes this route and it turns out to be positive for all involved, you may decide to continue working with the counselor after the list is complete. Another 2012 mom
Colby, Bowdoin Bennington Middlebury Bryn Mawr Wellesley Swarthmore Bard SUNY Purchase and Barnard Columbia.My knowledge of SAT scores etc. is 30 years old but I do know that this list meets the criteria you mentioned. Best of luck. Barnard '83.
I've sent two kids to college now. The first did end up at a small school we had never heard of, which we literally found out about by happenstance. Once she visited, she really felt it was right and was very firm in her decision. And she is having a good experience, but now that she is a junior and knows more about hers and other schools, she realizes that she could also have fit in and had a good experience at a number of other schools.
The second just started school at a college we had heard of, though I'm not sure how we had, since it's in a part of the country we had no connection with probably through sports. It's not small, but he equally felt it was just right for him. On a more practical note, have you read the books Schools that Change Lives or America's Best Colleges for B Students? Both might be helpful. Five or six is a small number to apply to these days. There are so many unknowable variables that play into why a student is accepted or not, it can happen that kids are not accepted into schools where they seem to easily meet all the criteria, and who knows why. Why not encourage her to add 3 or 4 to her list that just strike her fancy based on internet research?
Here are a couple of schools that we looked at during out two college searches that might have what she wants, though not all are necessarily close to a city.
Beliot College Franklin and Marshall Seattle U. U of Puget Sound Ursinus EckerdGood luck to you! Anne
I wandered into a large bookstore today thinking that I would buy a book about choosing a college. My son is only a junior but I like to read non-fiction and thought it would be sort of fun..... That was until I saw the shelves and shelves of books, each purporting to be THE book I need to narrow down the college search. I know about the college board website, but I'd like a paper and ink book I can curl up with. Can anyone recommend a good one or warn me against useless ones? Thanks, kate
When we read the book my daughter was planning to attend a Div I NCAA University. Two years later she was injured and out of sports, and transferred to a school she'd encountered in the book (Cornell College, Mt. Vernon, IA). She likes it there so much her brother decided to go there as a freshman this year. Yay! Heather
There are SO many ''pick me first'' kind of books. I bought a book that was about ''How to choose the right college''. It was a world of info about what questions to ask yourself (the student) about what you want in a college, where you want to be, what do you want to study, how much can you/parents afford, financial aid, etc. GREAT BOOK.
Along with that I got a book called something like ''The best colleges and universities in the US''...I know, there are many that say that. I bet they are much the same. Our book listed TONZ of colleges, large adn small, all over the US, and then it also had sections of ''best colleges for majors''. My son is majoring in theatre, so we looked for theatre colleges, big and small, did they have grad school, how competitive, etc. Hope this helps. I highly recommend the first book I mentioned. Good luck. You think THIS is hard...wait till he leaves!! mom of college guy
Our son, entering 10th grade, wants an ivy league (or M.I.T) education. I have no idea how hard it is to get into one of these schools or how hard it is once you get there. I would love any suggestions about how to figure out if our kid would get in and do well at a school like this. I would also love to know of resources for the ''inside scoop'' on colleges. Thanks anon
There are lots of great books out there for both of you to read about getting into college. Sit at the bookstore and browse before you buy, or check them out of the library. Again, cast a wide net to gain lots of information. A great book about the college admissions process is ''The Gatekeepers'' by Steinberg.
A timeline plan for both of you to follow is critical. A private college counselor can help a lot, but they can be quite expensive. There is a good book ''25 Months Until College'' by Judy McNeely that provides a step-by-step timeline. Good luck! Julie
My 10th grade daughter is an average student who tries very hard to get good grades. Her GPA is about a C. She has a few extra curricular activities but nothing major. She really wants to go to college. That being said, how will we find a college for her? She wants to go to a UC or State school but she tests horribly and I am certain her SAT scores won't help her cause. It seems that there are lots of counselors out there who help kids prepare their essays etc but it feels to me that these are more for the high achievers than for an average student. Does anyone know of a college counselor who works specifically with kids who don't have a 4.0 and tons of extra curricular activities? or do they work with everyone? also perhaps there is someone who finds colleges that are slightly off the radar/less competitive/more willing to look at the whole child? any help appreciated. thanks bpn'ers! mom of a great, average graded kid
For your daughter, an excellent route to CSUs and UCs is the community college system, which is relatively inexpensive and does not require SATs or other tests for admission. There are some community colleges with dorms, too. Good luck! Susan Weber
The couselor we worked with made a big difference, in two ways: first, she gave us a realistic picture of schools my daughter could probably not get into, so we could get over that and move on, and then she introduced us to a bunch of wonderful small schools she had a good chance at. The one she will be attending I had never heard of, but I've been there twice now and read up and it's a great school.
Second, she helped my daughter think about herself and present in the best way. In her case, we realized that, although she hadn't done classes and clubs, she does lots of cool creative stuff on her own. She prepared a photo portfolio of this work, even though she is not planning to major in art, and wrote a short essay about the role of self-directed creative activity in her life. Well, guess what? ''Self-directed'' is a very sought-after quality in a student! Though I don't have solid proof, I attribute this approach, along with well-chosen schools to apply to, to her really great experience in this process. So, above all, start thinking about what your student has to offer and how to express that. Never mind what they don't.
Counselors can also help suggest activities for students to participate in to increase their appeal, though we started too late for that. We did not do an expensive ''package'' with our counselor, but worked on an hourly basis, spending about $1200 over all. I'm not sure if all of them will do this, but it can't hurt to ask. Good luck! college mom now
He ended up going to Sonoma State and loves it. He has become so independent and is pulling in all As and Bs, taking a full load and working part time. For us, it's been wonderful. Plus, the classes are smaller and he actually knows his professors. He's really into school - I can hardly believe it.
Take a good look at a few of the Cal States - Chico is very nice too, as is Humboldt, for smaller schools that aren't really commuter schools. Good luck. The UCs have never been harder to get into.
Also, there is some western affiliation program where she could go to an out of state college in Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, etc. where she won't pay much more than in-state tuition. It's limited but there are some great schools like University of Southern Oregon.
P.S. We tried a college counselor too but they are really geared to getting kids into top UCs or Ivy League. Don't spend your money, I found they don't really have any ''secret'' advice you can't find on the web. Been there with average student
I know there is a stigma attached to community colleges, but they do a great job of getting kids ready for the bigger schools. Also, if your daughter is struggling to stay at an average level in high school, she might benefit from an intermediate step such as this.
There are some small colleges, most of them Christian, in the mid-west, that will accept a young person who has shown consistent grades and who really want to go to college. One of my daughter's friends is in her 3rd year at one of these schools in Iowa, and doing better grade wise than she did in high school.
She can always start at a community college. 2 years taking the basics, and taking advantage of the extra help they give there might be what she needs.
Good luck to you. Jenny
Regardless of whether or not your student works with an independent counselor, the school-based counselor must be good. The school-based counselor has access to student records, letters of recommendation, and teachers. The independent counselor can learn the desires and needs of the student and family. A counselor should go beyond what a parent can easily find on the internet or by talking to other parents.
There are many different kinds of college counselors. The most common are those who took a course. This provides them with a basic introduction to what resources are available for students. However, good counselors tend to be seasoned (but not burnt out). Some counselors are mothers who helped their children apply to college. There are those who are lawyers and are formal in their approach. There are those who are licensed psychologists and provide a therapeutic approach to college counseling. There are those who have doctorates and have done research on education and students. And there are those who can recommend colleges based on the faculty at those colleges because they have served on the faculty of major universities. Important questions to ask independent counselors include: Where did the counselor go to college, and what did they do before they became college counselors? One last bit of advice. The most important thing is that, when the process is completed, the student's self-esteem is intact and s/he feels proud of where they have been accepted. The worst case scenario is for a student to leave home believing that he or she has failed parents or self because s/he was waitlisted or not accepted somewhere else.
I hope this is helpful. I would be happy to answer any general questions. Wendy Walker-Moffat
My high school senior has applied to a few Ivy League universities for next fall and I'm trying to figure out how to make an acceptance decision, assuming (fearing?)that he may be accepted at an Ivy school. He has been accepted at 3 of the 5 UCs he applied to and hasn't heard from the remaining 2 UCs yet, so he's got choices. Is Ivy League worth the extra money? Will a UC serve him just as well as an Ivy League education? He is a very academically-oriented student, he works hard and does very well in school. Like most college freshman, he really doesn't know what he wants to study other than he would like a strong science/math program. His other interest is music, he has no interest in organized sports.
We will not qualify for any need-based financial aid (have been to a financial aid counselor). We would have to go into debt to pay for an Ivy League school and I'm concerned about our ability to pay off that debt given the economy and the precarious state of our employment. Right now our only debt is a very small mortgage. And there is a sibling headed for college in a few years. So, what would you do? Was you or your kid's Ivy league education something that you could not have gotten at a UC? Did your student go to UC and had a great experience? in either case, in what way? Given that grad school seems to be a requirement these days, does one or the other make a difference? If you are also in this situation how are you deciding? I graduated from Berkeley, but that was long ago and much has changed. thanks so much UC or Ivy?
The academics are a push, especially as an undergraduate. The faculties are just as good, the facilities are just as good, the available courses are just as diverse. There may be a bit more negotiability for custom majors or individualized programs at the private schools. For undergraduates intending on foreign study as a graduate student, I suspect an Ivy degree has better recognizability. But not in the USA--the UC diploma is just as good. Not being burdened by debt as an undergraduate, however, will provide a lot more options for graduate study.
That's my opinion, of course. I talk with a lot of UC students applying to graduate school. But I have personally seen a lot of Ivy: Cornell, Harvard, Columbia, Yale. Wolffe
Another reason to recommend an Ivy League school is the provinciality issue. I don't mean to sound snobbish about this, but I have found that many students in California seem to have a somewhat limited world view. I think this (beyond the quality of the education itself) is perhaps the best reason to send your son to college out-of-state. Ten or twenty years down the road, he might be very grateful for your having had the initiative to have sent him away from home to experience a wider (and very different) world.
Regarding the last point: New York City is only a 40-minute bus or train ride from downtown Princeton: many undergraduates take full advantage of its cultural resources for personal enrichment. Please feel free to contact me if you would like any further information about Princeton or the Ivy League. Jim
Now, this was back in the 80s, so I can't speak to the cuts the UCs have experienced since then ( or are experiencing now). And yes, I'll admit that OTHER people seem to care that I went to Stanford... although in general, names seem to matter more for grad. schools than undergrads anyway.
Where I went to school doesn't make one bit of difference in my job, however. They only care about my performance, and I suspect this is true most places. - still a public school girl at heart, I guess
Of course, the most important issue is knowing your individual child, and what environment is likely to be best for them. And also considering realistically the appalling cost/debt burden private college today represents. I would say my family of origin, which valued education, but was not at all wealthy, did just fine at UC. not-sure-it's-worth-it tuition payer
I meant to respond earlier and no longer have the original message but--I have one daughter who went to a UC and one who recently graduated from an Ivy. They have very different temperaments, educational interests, social needs, etc. The one who went to the Ivy (Brown) had to contribute to cover some of the costs (loans), we had to take a loan out on our house, and she didn't come home for Thanksgiving/Spring breaks (some). That said, this is the school she really wanted and she thrived there; academically, socially, etc. The classes were exciting--she was exposed to so much. There was a real love of learning. Her experiences were very rich, made terrific friends, knew her professors well and had many opportunities to do research, volunteer, and receive guidance from her advisors. She developed many leadership skills. She worked minimally on/off campus. Paying her loans back and some of her financial restrictions were a bit tough for her (some of her friends didn't have to think twice about spending $) but she would do it over again in a flash. I am happy we were able to give her this even tho it was financially hard for us also.
My daughter who went to a UC was happy she graduated without debt(we were able to cover her costs). She didn't necessarily chose the right UC for her--it was too large, too academic, not located in an area conducive to doing internships/volunteering, but that said, she feels she got a good education, made good friends, had good opportunities. She had to find her own way more, only got to know one or two professors. She pretty much knew what she wanted to study so she wasn't lost in terms of what to major in. She is now in grad school and working, paying her own way.
In our case, the Ivy was well worth it for one daughter; the UC was fine for the other. If we couldn't swing it I think the Ivy daughter would have also done well at a UC but she definately had an experience that couldn't be replicated. I wouldn't have done it if the financial repercussions were too great for us and I hate the idea of debt for her. Good luck--not an easy decision.
I would also like to add that any small, high-quality liberal arts school would serve the same purpose of enriched education I mentioned before: places like Oberlin, Amherst, Williams, Bryn Mawr, Reed, etc. I seriously considered going to Amherst instead of Princeton for just this reason (an enriched small-class environment), but am glad I ended up choosing Princeton, since it was a little bigger, and perhaps slightly more diverse, than Amherst might have been.
Finally, I would not necessarily go by what a college counselor says about the lack of financial assistance. It is my impression that in recent years, top quality private colleges have been making a lot of efforts to make their schools more accessible to middle-class parents who are not super wealthy. I would recommend contacting the school directly, and seeing if you could negotiate something with them, or at least get more information on possible financial assistance. If your son is as talented and smart as you say he is, then you actually have bargaining power, since top Ivy League schools are always competing with each other for the best students. Good luck with your college search! Jim
Looking ahead a few months, I am wondering how to locate local students (such as Berkeley high grads), who have gone to a certain college to find out more about their impressions and experiences. My senior is considering a number of colleges that we have no personal connection with (such as Macalester and Scripps) and we would like to talk to current (or recent) students, if possible. Soon to be empty nester
One Degree and Pre-Professional
If student is only going to get one degree--then possibly a pre-professional major might matter. Choosing a school which has a good business or engineering program and one that is respected in the student's area of focus may be important. A good measure of quality would to see how many employers interview on campus--these numbers are published by the college.
Graduate Degree Oriented
On the other hand, many students these days wish to attend graduate school. What most people don't know is that liberal arts colleges are the fastest route to JD, MD, MBA and Ph.D programs. The only catch is that most liberal arts colleges are private. The good news is that many offer merit and need based financial aid. So if you feel that you cannot afford $40-50K a year but your student is in the top 10% of their class and has significant academic or athletic talent you may wish to consider these colleges. The main reason I recommend these is that graduate schools prefer liberal arts colleges because of the great job they do in preparing students to write well, think critically and express their ideas in oral argument. If you are able to call your professor by their first name or do research as an undergraduate with your professors it makes a huge difference on your student's resume. For more information about top undergraduate feeder schools here is a link: http://www.collegematchus.com/related_resources.html David
Parents and students can begin their search online for excellent, often affordable (with merit and need-based aid), but largely unknown colleges.
The first website to explore is http://www.ctcl.com - Colleges That Change Lives, from Loren Pope's book of the same name.
The second is http://www.collegesofdistinction.com - a project of diverse administrators, alumni, and students.
Finally, those exploring in-state schools can look beyond UC's and CSU's at http://www.aiccu.edu - The Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities.
Remember, no web search can substitute for a campus visit, but it can at least broaden your awareness and start you in the right direction. Eion Lys College Counselor
The time has come to apply to colleges. From what I hear, the kids generally want to move out and go to an out of area college. The problem is that I'm not so sure I want my daughter to go far away. She has her sights set on CAL, but it seems there is a lot of pressure at school from friends and even teachers, that it's not cool to stay close to home. What do think?
I am a professor at Cal and my daughter decided to go there. Actually it was the best of the affordable schools that she got in to, though if she really wanted to go somewhere else she had a choice among several fine UCs (I have absolutely NO influence on admissions, let's get that out of the way! and I get no break of any kind). She got in to some private schools and that was grand but way way too expensive. We did not qualify, at any public or private school, for financial aid or interest-free loans. We were offered loans at what I consider a high interest rate and we did not take them. We are unfortunately in a sandwich between being wealthy enough to pay our way to a private school, and ''poor'' enough to qualify for financial aid. The living expenses in the Bay Area, 177% of average, did not seem to impress the various schools we applied to. This does not mean that YOU will not get aid, so try. Most colleges say they are ''needs blind,'' or ''practically needs blind.''
The community college option with a two-year transfer is a good one--really saves money and there are some really good teachers in small classes in the community colleges.
To get back to your question, not only is my daughter close to home, but she is at my place of work, admittedly with 30,000+ other people. So far, this works for us. She lives in the dorms and I stay out of her business. She comes home when she wants to, and I love to see her. We love to see each other once in a while for lunch or snack on campus. I could not be happier, but I have to watch myself. I have to NOT GET INTO HER STUFF. That is hard, as I want her to do well in school and she has had some periods of doubt and unhappiness. She has questioned her choice because it is such a ''BIG' place, but at the same time has wonderful opportunities to do things. She is also outrageously happy with what she is doing at times, and is very involved in extracurricular activities and has lots of friends. So I think she is at the normal for her general personality. She's a homebody and a bit moody.
Do what seems right for you and your child, and accept that once they are off to school, they are adults and should be given privacy with responsibility. I do ask my daughter to prepare a budget for me every semester and I would do that wherever she went.
My second daughter, applying for college right now, is adamant that she wants to go AWAY for college. It is pretty clear in this case what her preferences are and I think we accept that. But I think 100 miles is AWAY, and the east coast means a lot of flight delays. We will see where she gets in and at what price. I really wanted to get AWAY and found that 100 miles was perfect for me. I guess what I am trying to say is that the away vs. close problem pales compared to where the kid gets in and at what price.
I think we need to transmit some crucial info to our kids as soon as possible, and this gets lost in our worries about college this or college that:
1. live within your means (bankrupting yourself for some
big name school is not setting a good example).
2. don't borrow money. Start a car fund now. No weird mortgages.
3. save money and live on a budget. Understand compound interest. (and you can start with 10.00 saved by getting a book used, etc.)
4. you are not entitled to anything, you have to earn it.
5. learn about investing your savings.
As to the application process, it is well known that it is the major your kid picks is more important than the college. I know that the kid who is going to Cal Poly in engineering is going to do very well financially compared to the kid who goes to Stanford in drama (and don't get angry with me if drama is your kid's thing--that is just the way it is and who knows they could get lucky but it will be harder with a lot of debt....). What if they went to Cal in engineering and the competition was so fierce they changed majors, while at Cal Poly they are supported and in a more reasonable peer environment? At Cal, to do engineering you have to be in a different college so your choices for alternative majors require a transfer--and if you are in another major and want to transfer into engineering it is very difficult. Perhaps a school that made it easier to choose would be more reasonable. Keep these things in mind. I don't think it is reasonable for a high school senior to know exactly what they want to do. So find a school that has a lot of choices, unless your kid is very focused (and I know one of those this year who has already changed her mind, after 4 weeks of freshman year).
My greatest fear for my daughter is that at Cal, the sciences are so packed with highly competitive students that she may give up, while at a smaller school she might stick with it.
Now for the application process: what has happened???? It is such a drag. We did not take this nearly so seriously when I applied to college. You need to try to get good scores, good grades, and for some schools, good recommendations. AP classes, if your kid can do well in them, are good. Some evidence of public service (though not so much and so diverse that it looks contrived) is good. Faking things does not help your kid, who will wind up somewhere he or she does not belong. You need to help them find a school that is going to be right for them. So get some of those books on colleges, or go to spark college on the web, or do several of those things and have the kid look through them and see what is of interest. You will be able to get some idea of the likelihood of your kid getting in from the GPA and scores of students accepted. Look at some college websites. Try not to let all the ''noise'' about xy and z's perfect SAT scores get to you. Just focus on finding a place your kid likes, and put ''away or close'' way down the priority list, unless is it really a big deal for your daughter. Be frank with your kids about what you can afford, but don't let them stop them from applying to places, because you may get an offer that makes it affordable.
It is helpful if you have them take an SAT prep course, I think. My daughter took a week long prep course offered through her school. They need to get used to the test format.
I have used a consultant for 2 meetings per kid, just to reduce some of the tension that gets built up when parents try to do all the advising. The consultant made my daughter aware of where she was likely to get in and where she would not get in, and recommended some schools to her. Your kid should write her OWN essays, and proof read them a lot. You can help with proof reading, but lay off.
There is my 2 cents. local mom
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