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The College Search: How You Can Help Your Child

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Using the List

Once your child has compiled this list you can start researching colleges to match it. The College Board's College Handbook is a comprehensive list of schools and what they offer. You may find many schools match your attributes, so at this point you'll want to look beyond the surface, comparing schools to narrow your choices.

Your child can order catalogs to get more detail about what schools offer, and she can ask questions of admissions officers to find out more. Good information to know includes the percentage of students who graduate from the school, the percentage who get jobs in their fields of study, and how long it takes on average to get a degree. Your child might also want to find out about special opportunities, such as an honors college or overseas study.

It Costs What?!

Now that he has a lot of information, your child should be able to narrow his choice to half a dozen schools. Finances have not come up at this point, a qualifier many parents would put at the top of their lists. But many experts recommend selecting a range of schools to apply to regardless of financial considerations.

Options for financial aid are available - so many that hundreds of guides have been published to help you. Your child's high school guidance counselor can point you in the right direction. In general though, it's good to keep in mind that the initial price tag may not tell you everything. More expensive private schools often offer extensive financial aid to qualified students.

Hit the Road, Jack

Remember those great family vacations of yore? It's time to take another one, visiting as many schools of interest to your child as possible. Without a visit, it's tough to get a real sense of a school and make a final choice. Schools offer tours to prospective applicants, a good way to get a guided overview. You and your child should also wander on your own; check out the student union, the library, dorms, classrooms, labs and computer facilities. Try to visit at a time when school is in session, so your child can get a feel for the place "in action."

The Envelope Please

At last it's time for your child to send in her applications. And wait. This can be the toughest time for a teenager, and receiving a rejection letter can feel like a devastating blow. You can reassure your child though: Many colleges get more qualified applicants than they can accept, so a rejection doesn't mean she doesn't "have what it takes." Recent studies have shown that nine in 10 applicants get accepted to their first or second choice school, so your child has lots of reasons to look forward to those envelopes rolling in.

And you can feel reassured too. Now that you've done all this homework, you know whatever school your child attends will be a place where she can be comfortable and successful. That makes it a lot easier to send your child on this first journey into adulthood.

Comments from readers

"My sons SAT scores were 1610 and he is already beginning to receive invitations from some institutions. Some even offering scholarships if he maintains a min. gpa. Finances is definately a concern. How does the scholarship offerings work. he will be a first generation college student."
"I have 18 grands at this point, & I would suggest to them that the following 3 questions must be primary: what is his career goal, institutions that educate him for career goal, & amt of financial aid provided by each institution. The last will determine WHERE he may consider going, & thus is the point that must not be overlooked! Without assistance from my widowed mother (& no provisions made for any of his 4 children in advance by my dying father) I literally worked my way through college & then university. I worked 39 hrs a wk, took 22 credit hrs a semester, & by my 3rd semester I was a junior in university. I began teaching school at the age of 18 (most of my students were older than I was), and when I taught the same subject matter to adults in evening classes, I was amused to see them pull the same stunts the kids did in a vain attempt to divert me from a scheduled test! The whole point of my remarks is to say that IT IS POSSIBLE TO WORK YOUR WAY THROUGH COLLEGE. Keep a positive attitude! You simply cannot be too proud to do any job that meets your moral standards. Work in the kitchen for 4 hrs before my 8 a.m. class? Yes, indeed! During a lunch break of 2 hrs, will I dig ditches to repair a sewer line on campus? You bet! Work at a cleaners full time on the weekends? I'll be there! Babysit the professor's children in the evening? Give me your address & the time you need me to be there, & you can count on me! Play the piano for children's choir rehearsal after school? Sure thing! On nights I didn't teach adults, would I work until midnight in the film lab, cleaning & repairing film? Yes, I will! Long before any research had been conducted on the subject, I 'studied' while I slept. I recorded the material I needed to place in my memory, and then let it play in my ears while I slept. Did it work? I graduated with honors at the age of 18. To this day I still use what I learned."
"The following sounds like advice for spoiled self-centered children planning to vacation for the next four years- 'The simplest question to address is what region of the country she would like to live in. Next comes what size school she'd like to attend — a large public university or a small liberal arts college? She should also consider the size of the town she wants to live in. Is she more interested in an urban environment, or is she an outdoor type with a serious need to ski?' How about the need to get an education, pursue a career and contribute along the way?????"
"Thank you for such an informative article. My daughter Desiree still has two more years before entering college, however, this article contains lots of useful tips that will help us plan accordingly. "
"Thanks the info was helpful! My daughter is a junior and we will be beginning this journey and it gave me guidelines to consider"