You know my family just completed a college tour road trip- 7 colleges, 16 states, 2800 miles. Seeing 7 colleges brought the total up to 15 colleges visited. My daughter has narrowed down her choices and is now starting the application process. Here’s how she narrowed it down.
There are about 4000 colleges in the US. Where do you go from there? Well, the editor of the Princeton Review “Top 382 Colleges in America” gave a talk at my daughter’s school, and handed out copies of the book. So we went from 4000 to 382 pretty quickly. (Let me add, this is how we did it- you can narrow down the field anyway you want) But, along side this book, we had done a few tours of college campuses. We spread the field a bit- we visited a few different campuses- state schools, private schools, undergrad enrollment less than 5000, between 5 and 10000, and greater. Urban and less urban. After viewing the different options my daughter knew the following:
- 5000-10000 undergrad would be ideal. Larger was better than smaller
- Urban or town setting. When you walked out of the campus gates, there needed to actually be something you could walk to
- Strong humanities/pre law program
- No farther west than the mid-west
- Law team/club/fraternity
- limited social fraternity
- limited team culture
- Low student/faculty ratio
- small class size
- classes taught by Professors not TA’s
We then went through the 382 colleges book page by page. She narrowed down the field to 41 schools. Of those 41 schools she broke it down into three levels-
- reach schools (schools where admittance rate for her was hovering around 15% or less,
- target schools (schools which she has a decent shot of getting into, meaning her grades and test scores fall into the middle to high range of where their admitted students are
- likely, which is schools where she is at the highest point or above where their students are
After separating them, she got on the mailing lists of any schools not already sending her information. She attended road shows when available- road show meaning, representatives from the schools come to our area and give a presentation about the school. She went on school websites and instagrams and whatever social media the school was using to promote itself.
Then she made a list of schools that she wanted to see in person to see if she liked the culture. Honestly, she knew 3 minutes into an information session if she liked the school. The person who introduces you to the school is a great barometer of what the school will be like- she separated the types of schools as follows:
- Touchy-feely- schools where the advisors have advisors. These schools are very nurturing and will hold your hand through everything
- Cold- schools where they sort of feed you to the wolves- highly competitive atmosphere
- Pseudo intellectual- the kids are incredibly smart, and they let you know it at every single opportunity
- Quirky- kids that think outside the box about everything
- Intellectual- kids really do sit on the common and discuss philosophy
- Go team- half the campus will have there faces painted on game day, and students travel to away games
- Susie sorority- more than 50% of students are in Greek life and their is greek housing on campus
- granola- kids are so chill that literally nothing bothers them
- Academic- most kids have at minimum a double major
- Commuter- kids leave campus on weekends
- Involved- kids are involved in at least three different areas of campus life
Obviously, schools can carry more than one banner, but it’s very easy to break them down into categories. Know thyself- which type of kid are you? What are you looking for in a school? Which type makes you comfortable? Which type of school would you thrive in? What type of people do you want to surround yourself by?
And now the list is down to 15, including two schools she has not toured/info session yet, but will most probably make the cut. She will most probably apply to 15 schools- her school recommendation is 10 schools, but since she is top heavy on reach schools, she is spreading the field. With the common app, applying to more schools is very easy- 90% of the work is done. She has also been waived from admission fees at some of the schools, so cost is evening itself out.
Now- some of you are saying- “My kid won’t do this.” Some of you are parents that are asking the questions when you visit schools. Some of you have kids who are sitting in the back row of info sessions and are on their phone the whole time. Here’s what I say to that:
Maybe your child should not go to college right after High School. No matter what anyone say, college is an option. No one has to go to college. College does not mean you will be successful – successful meaning that you will have an enriching career that challenges you and that you love. If your kid hasn’t been interested in studying, and shows no interest in the college process, let them explore other options. Colleges report six year graduation rates, because there are a lot of kids (going full time) who require 6 years to get a BA/BS degree, and it’s not usually because they changed majors. Think about that. Isn’t it better that a kid gets a job before they go to college so that they could think about what they want to do, instead of wasting time and money?
Also- community college. Work a job, take a class. Maybe they’ll find something they love. Tech school- hello- to be an electrician or plumber or IT guy you have to be really smart, but they don’t require college. And you will have a career and a skill.
You can think about which college you want to go to.
You can decide not to go to college
You can go to trade school.
You can be an entrepreneur. (but please take at least one accounting class so you have an idea about balance sheets)
The only bad option is doing something but not putting your heart and soul into it. Enter the next phase of life passionate about something. My daughter is passionate about continuing her education- that is evident by her choices. But there is nothing wrong with being a 17 year old kid who does not know what they want to do. i’m 54 and I still don’t know what I want to do.
The choice is figuring out what you want to do next. If you love something, it always ends up working out.