Facing acceptance letters from more than one school can seem like a good problem for a high school senior to have. And it is. But it can be a tough choice to make when your student is wavering between two or more schools.
Sometimes the financial aid award letter will drive a student’s decision, but if cost is not a deciding factor, then your student will need to dig deeper to make the choice. As a parent you can help guide the discussion about which school is the best choice. Following are some strategies to help the conversation move forward:
What’s important to your student?
Encourage your student to start by not thinking about the specific schools at all, but by revisiting his or her priorities. What does your student most want out of their college? A specific program? The ability to take part in a certain extracurricular activity? A specific approach to academics? Geography?
Have your student list out their main priorities then order them from most important to least important among those priorities. Ideally this exercise will take them back to what they really want out of their college experience, without thinking about any particular school.
If you have certain priorities, possibly based on cost (including transportation costs if a far-away school is on the table), be sure to add those into the list.
Lay out the facts.
Next it’s time to review the facts about each school, based on the priorities your student has listed. For example, if your student is planning to major in biology and both schools have biology programs, that should be noted. If one program is more highly rated than another, that can be noted as well. If your student really clicked with an advisor in that department, note that as well, as it is also a fact about the program. Whether or not that outweighs the more highly-touted program, is part of what your discussion can be about.
Rate each school on each priority.
Lastly, you and your student can work through the list of priorities and see which school comes out ahead in each category.
This approach may or may not lead your student to a clear-cut decision—this decision sometimes just comes down to a gut-feeling on your student’s part. However, it will hopefully give you both a clear framework with which to have a discussion that’s based on your student’s priorities.
She’s experienced in planning and paying for college both as a student and parent. With one child through college and two more a few years away from it, she is right there with you on the college-planning journey. A creative pro with years logged in journalism, public relations, and marketing, she’s been writing for the College Planning Blog since its launch in 2006.