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All the important things... by Linda Dowley

Here are several items that I consider essential as you begin the college search process:

  • College admission is not a contest and gaining admission to a particular school does not guarantee professional success or personal happiness. A student should look for a college that is a good fit for them academically and socially, and a good fit for your family financially.

  • Parents: ask your student about their interests, goals and dreams. Here are some great questions to begin the conversation:

  • Understand college costs. They have risen dramatically in recent years but 89% of freshmen do not pay the “sticker price”. Use tools to help estimate costs, including Expected Family Contribution calculator: and the Net Price Calculator that can be found on each college’s website – or you can use the one from College Board:

  • Be open-minded. Consider schools you haven’t heard about before. Search out interesting programs (use Xello and College Board’s Big Future). Look at Colleges that Change Lives: Understand that just because you have not heard of a school, that does not lessen its legitimacy or in any way diminish the value of the school’s program offerings.

  • Long-term goals (such as graduate school) should inform undergraduate choices. Find a school where a student can be an academic stand-out and have exposure to research and professor mentorship which will set them up well for graduate school. Consider the benefits of being a big fish in a small pond. Read Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath.

  • Students should not fall in love with one school – their entire list should be comprised of schools where they will be happy. Look at graduation rates and freshman retention rates to ensure students can graduate in four years and are happy to be there (and are academically and financially supported by the school).

  • Read Frank Bruni’s book Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania. Be informed and enjoy the process.

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