Goldilocks Chooses a College: Is it just right?

NWU Acceptance folder

College acceptance letters are trickling in for the Class of 2017. From now until May 1st, when enrollment deposits are due, college-bound seniors and their families will fret about which school to attend. While having more than one option is a wonderful thing, the deciding can be agony. 

Parents have talked up the college adventure for years: Your roommate will be your best friend! You’ll meet your future spouse! College will be: Awesome! Enlightening! Fun! 

UC Irvine Rec Room

Older students probably warned them about: Exhaustion! Loneliness! Psycho roommates! Loans! Tickets!

UA bicyclist gets a ticket

With colleges charging anywhere from $46/unit to $3600/unit, families may decide that cost is paramount. Absolutely. Parents and students both want value in their degree. (Yes, your students, too, understand the costs.) Even so, at many price points, a wide variety of options exist.

A Good Fit: The Usual Parameters

  • Location
  • Weather
  • Rankings
  • Proximity to home
  • Cost
  • Campus culture
  • Majors offered
  • Internships and job offerings

Drilling down to more specific considerations:

  • Core curriculum requirements
  • TAs or Professors
  • Academic support
  • Endowment growing or going bankrupt
  • Active learning environment or two midterms then a final
  • Connection to professors
  • Alumni network

The average college-bound student in the US is one lucky individual. There are so many campuses to choose from--according to NCES: 4,726! Once you get past the 2-yr, 4-yr, rural/urban, West vs East, Pac 12 vs ACC, or dozens of other important parameters of your choosing, most any decision will be a good one. And, families are, by and large, making smart choices. Witness relatively low transfer rates at many colleges. (Dropout rates are a different story!)

UA Rec Center Massage Room

The question that really should be asked: Is there such thing as a “perfect fit”? If you want to be one of the 108,000 'Go Blue' fans, then you can't be afraid to raise your hand in a class of 500+ students. If you want a massage studio in your rec center, you probably won't be getting the small, liberal arts experience.  If you want to get to know your professor on a first name basis, you may also know the names of all the members of your class...before Freshman year is even over. Compromise is healthy! Agonizing over a perfect fit leads to unnecessary anxiety and unrealistic expectations. 

My A+ college tip? Be adventurous! Challenge yourself. Push on the envelope for a while. You can always come back to the known and familiar. You'll be wiser and stronger when you do.

Allison Henderson

If you want someone to help your teen organize and plan their college adventure, give A+ a call. I would love to help launch your teen!