The Anti-Karma of College Admission

Thank you to Teen Life for featuring advice from Christine VanDeVelde in Evaluating College Choices

If your teen has been accepted to several different colleges, first off, Congratulations! They should be very proud of this accomplishment. But now they need to determine which school they will ultimately attend.

How can teens evaluate their college options and determine which school is right for them?

Factors to Consider

Once your teen knows where they have been accepted, they need to compare each school and what it has to offer. A simple pros and cons list of each school can be very helpful.

Christine K. VanDeVelde, journalist and coauthor of the book College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step, says, “It has been several months since the teen submitted their application to the school. They need to determine whether each school still lines up with their original goals and whether in these past few months, any of their goals have changed.”

Financial aid packages are an important consideration. Think about all the costs involved – housing, travel, books, etc.

Learn More About the Colleges Being Considered

If you can, have your teen visit or re-visit the colleges they are considering.

VanDeVelde says, “If your teen has never visited the school, they must do so before committing. Many schools have programs to cover the cost of a visit if the student cannot afford the travel expenses.”

Lisa Sohmer, Director of College Counseling at the Garden School says, “Many colleges have Accepted Students Day where teens can meet other students considering the school. They can also meet professors and talk to students already attending the college.” Spend time in the student center and dining halls. Read the postings on the walls and bulletin boards – see if there are events going on that would interest you if you attended the school.

After acceptance letters go out, many schools start Facebook groups for prospective students. This can be another good way for your teen to get a feel for whether they will feel comfortable with the incoming students.

Teens Should Decide

While many parents today do play a strong role in the college application process, deciding where to go to school should ultimately be the teen’s decision.

If teens ask for an opinion, be honest but try not to influence their decision (unless it is a financial necessity, it which case, speak up). Ultimately it is the teen that needs to attend the school, so they need to own the choices. Says VanDeVelde, “There comes a point where the teen needs to be the judge. I advise teens not to talk to too many people. It’s not your parent’s decision or your boyfriend’s or counselor’s – it is your decision.”

Teens should try not to be influenced by peers. Students may let the decisions of fellow high school classmates factor into their own. Some teens may want to go to a college with many teens from their town while others may not want to go somewhere no one knows them. Sohmer says, “The reality is, even if many kids from your high school go to the college, you may never see them and the experience will be different.”

Making the Most of the College Experience

For many teens, the deciding factor comes down to a gut reaction. Sohmer says, “Students will be the most successful at a school they feel they can make a home for themselves.”

Regardless of how much time and energy teens put into their decision, there are many factors beyond their control (dorm assignments, classes, roommates, etc.) that can influence their college experience. It is up to the teen to remember why they chose the school and to seek out the things that interested them socially and academically. Says VanDeVelde, “College is filled with such great opportunities and friendships – it is up to teens to make the most of whatever college they choose to attend. Best advice? It’s not where you go, but what you do when you get there.”

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