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!
Older students probably warned them about: Exhaustion! Loneliness! Psycho roommates! Loans! Tickets!
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
- Proximity to home
- 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!)
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.