With 2,870 four-year colleges in the US and an additional 1, 700+ two-year institutions, is there such thing as the “best” college for a student? When you’re in the throes of making a decision, it sure feels that way. Choosing well is important because the college years determine or at least gives shape to our future; vocation, world view, whom you’ll marry–decisions that follow you throughout life.
Before panic or a fear of making the wrong choice sets in, let me offer you a word of truth and encouragement:
When you identify priorities for college choice and then make a thoughtful, considered decision in light of what’s important to you and your child, your choice will be the best one.
Typically, where to attend college is based on some combination of several factors:
- family legacy (parent alma mater or sibling already there)
- academic rigor
- course offering
- sports affiliation
- familiarity and friends’ choice
- housing (on campus and off)
and many more….
Thinking back to my own reasoning for choosing a college horrifies me:
- It was 75 minutes from home.
- It was not the college my sister attended (I lived in her shadow my first 18 years of life and was not going to repeat that in college).
- I liked the campus. Mind you, it was the only campus I visited, although I grew up in a huge college town and figured I’d end up back there after a year.
- The Tiger paws on the roads were friendly.
Oy. Seriously…at the time, it didn’t even have a good option for what I wanted to major in, so I found something close. But I fell in love with the college and eventually the man I’d marry and have three (pretty amazing) kids with, so it turned out okay. Still…I shake my head over my father paying out of state tuition for four years.
I was resolute about making better, more informed choices with our own children.
One of the most helpful resources that helped us accomplish that goal (and mentioned earlier in this series) is the dynamite-in-a-small-package book, An Educated Choice: Advice for Parents of College-Bound Students by Frank Brock. I can’t say I agree with everything Brock suggests but there is no doubt it influenced how we approached college choice and helped us to consider a much broader view of education and what we were hoping for our children to accomplish. (It’s cheap and basically you’re only paying to have it shipped; a used copy is just fine….)
One of the finer points Brock makes is “getting a degree is not the same as getting a good education.” (p. 13) Wow…that idea alone was revolutionary. Another profound conviction of his: “…nothing is more expensive than a failed college experience and nothing is more valuable than a good education.” (p. 20) Brock challenged us to consider the learning environment of each college and helped us realize “breadth of programs [do] not necessarily translate into quality programs…” (p. 31, emphasis added). By visiting several schools, we’ve noticed the wide disparity among different institutions in these areas and the factors listed above.
We’re going to break “How to Choose The Best College for Your Child” into several smaller discussions; next time we’ll discuss How To Make the Most of a College Fair.
Thank you for sharing this series with your friends and family; whether by sending them an email link or using the social media icons below, I’m grateful. What I’m sharing with you is the information we’ve accumulated over three children and five years of going through these motions! Keep with the series and you’re bound to gain new insights!
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Robin, I’m so glad to learn about Brock’s book. I’m going to get the and read it before my daughter goes to school. Too late for my son since he’s already applying. But I love what you say about how identifying priorities and making a thoughtful decision mean you can trust you ARE making the best decision. (Goodbye, self doubt!!!)
Yaaaeee! There are some things I don’t like about the book, but there are so many more that changed the way I viewed education, so much so, I STRONGLY encourage ANYONE who has a near college-age child to read it. Many new thoughts and considerations; and definitely not how I made my decision :).