Picking a college is an exciting and anxious decision, for both students and parents. Although it’s tempting to focus on name-brand, selective colleges and universities, not every student will thrive in every environment.
Picking the wrong school can be a costly mistake.
According to College Inside Track, 38% of students transfer out of the school they attended freshman year. Of those, half transfer multiple times, and a good portion of those never finish. College Inside Track estimates that every time a student transfers institutions, it costs an average of $12,000, whether for additional coursework or lost financial aid.
It is essential to match the college with the student to provide the best shot for success and keep the cost of that education to the minimum amount possible. Here are three key areas to consider as you think about which institution might be a good fit for your student.
There are some key areas to look for when matching a school’s academic profile to your student. First is evaluating where the student’s interest lies and looking at the school’s reputation those areas. It is also important to look at the companies or industries the faculty and school have relationships with to help with job placement and internships. Lastly, evaluate the academic rigor of the curriculum. You want your student to be able to complete his or her degree in four years, which might be difficult if they are either not challenged enough or are constantly struggling academically.
Many of the most important lessons that we learn in college happen outside the classroom. Do you think your student would thrive better at a small college or a large university? What kind of social groups and extracurricular activities are available at the school and in the surrounding area? Is your student going to thrive socially or hate it and spend their four years wishing they were somewhere else? Just like admissions officers look for well-rounded individuals when filling their freshman class, hiring managers look for well-rounded and socially adapted individuals when trying to fill positions at their companies.
Let’s face it, educating our children is one of the biggest expenses we will ever face. The cost of a college education has gone up substantially over the last 40 years, and although the rate of tuition increase has slowed over the last decade, it is still higher than the overall cost of inflation. This trend does not seem to be reversing anytime soon, which is why you must consider how your college funding strategy fits into your overall financial plan.
It does not help anyone if you jeopardize your retirement or long-term financial plan to get your child through school. Likewise, it does not help your student to be saddled with student debt that will put them behind financially for the first 10 or 15 years of their career.
As you and your student approach the college search, the first step is to sit down and figure out how you’ll pay for all four years of college. It is also important to have a real conversation with your student early in the process about what your family can realistically afford to pay.
By focusing on these key areas when selecting a school, you can do your best to ensure your student has an exceptional collegiate experience and will be equipped for their next stage of life.