Helping Your Child Pick the Right College for Them

One of the things I looked forward to the most after high school was attending college. It was a time where as a student, I could assert my independence and pursue a degree that would ultimately set me up for success in the future. But it’s also a time where guidance and advice from parents is critical, as the next four (or more) years set students up for their eventual career paths. As exciting and overwhelming as the process may feel, here are some topics to consider to help make the process easier.

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What Are Their Career Goals?

When applying to colleges, it’s important to first consider your child’s professional goals. There are schools that may have an amazing Theater Arts Program, for example, but the Science Department may not be the best. On the other hand, there are schools that have exceptional funding for science and research, and no formal undergraduate business program. All schools have their strengths, so to narrow down your list, figure out which program best aligns with your student’s academic and professional goals. As a child, I gravitated towards science and medicine, so when deciding which school to attend, my parents helped me in choosing a university with a strong science program.

College Community and Environment 

Leaving home for a completely new environment can be frightening for some students. But just remember, the transition is happening for all incoming freshman. Clubs and organizations make this easier, and many colleges make resources for joining readily available. This was one of the major considerations my parents and I talked about. Being a person of color, it was important that I chose a college where I would feel a sense of community. For other students who may be interested in joining Panhellenic Organizations, it’s important to consider if the college of your choice has a chapter.

Howard University

Cost of Attendance

This is the big one. Attending college is not cheap. Between tuition and living expenses, the cost can become a huge financial burden on the entire family. Considering schools where your student is eligible for scholarships and grants could help cover the cost of attendance. You might also want to consider universities within your home state, so that you qualify for in-state tuition. When considering finances, I planned ahead and was fortunate enough to be awarded scholarships that funded my tuition and fees, and ultimately graduated debt free.

Location of College

While the location of the college can help your family save money on tuition, it can also help your child with professional goals. Considering a place like Washington, D.C. as a political science major may help with gaining access to relevant internship experience. Likewise, marine biology majors may want to attend college somewhere near vast ecosystems. Studying fashion in New York, or business in Boston or Silicon Valley are other strategies to consider when choosing the right school. When choosing which college to attend, my parents advised that it was best to choose one where I had family nearby. This way I could have a support system if needed.

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Size of College and Classrooms

When helping your child choose the right university, you should also note their learning style. Will they be able to thrive and concentrate in a classroom with over 100 students? Or do they prefer a classroom size that is much smaller, to allow for more one-on-one attention from the professor? Even beyond the classroom, how do they feel about being a part of a campus that may have thousands of students? Are they very sociable, or would they prefer a school that is not as large and overwhelming? I ultimately decided to attend a smaller university, which helped me transition from living with my parents to living on my own.

Each child is unique, so remember that each college experience will also be unique. Having an open dialogue about these topics as you and your child navigate the college application process will help narrow the search in finding the perfect fit.


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