Picking a College: It's Not Like Choosing Between Hamburgers and Fish Sticks Any More
My daughter is a senior in high school, which means two things: One, I’m getting older faster than I ever thought I would; and two, she has to pick a college.
Written by: Dr. Michael Weiss
Both situations are humbling, confusing and traumatic, but I’m trying to make the best of them. That’s why I’ve decided to avoid birthdays and mirrors for the rest of my life, and to hire a "college selection consultant" for my daughter.
A college selection consultant helps young people find, apply to and get accepted the college of their choice.
A former guidance counselor or teacher, the consultant is usually retained by parents who can’t figure out what their kid wants, are befuddled by the whole college application process or realize that one stupid move on their part will wreck their kid’s entire future.
Caring but clueless pretty much describes me; so my wife and I recognized - O.K., my wife recognized - that we need help.
After doing some research, we found an affable, professional and knowledgeable woman to guide and advise us. Within five minutes of our first meeting, I realized that selecting a college today is nothing like it was when I was my daughter’s age.
When I was in high school, my friends and I spent more time figuring out what to eat for lunch - hamburgers or fish sticks - than we did in picking a college.
Case in point: I invested zero time researching schools. Instead, I applied to the one my favorite math teacher recommended. My friends were the same way. Their reasons for selecting a college included:
- Their mother/father/brother/sister went there.
- A girlfriend/boyfriend went there.
- It was close to/far away from home.
- The football team was good.
- The male-to-female/female-to-male ratio was high.
- It was the first/only college to accept them.
- Gym/foreign languages/science weren’t required.
- The social life rocked.
Things are different now. For starters, most colleges today are pretty picky about who they accept, so gaining admission can be akin to participating in a contact sport. When it comes in the form of good advice and insider knowledge, a competitive edge really helps.
More important, those of us who took a casual attitude about our own choice of colleges want more than that for our children.
We want them to attend a college that will suit their personalities and nurture their talents. We want them to learn skills and engage in self-discovery. We want them to go where they’ll work hard, have fun, make friends and build memories. Most of all, we want them to attend a college that will prepare them not just for careers, but for adulthood.
If all those birthdays have taught us anything, it’s that the choice of a college is a critical decision - one that we take more seriously for our children than we ever took for ourselves.
That’s why my wife and I hired a professional to help our daughter: We may be good parents, but we know when we’re out of our league. This is one decision that’s just too important to leave to amateurs like us.
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