Skip Trudeau answers the question on how to choose the best college for your teen.
Q: How do I know which school is really right for my daughter? I don't think the answer is totally about sending her to the "best" school. I have a friend who sent her son to a really great, high-ranked college, and he's thriving there. On the other hand, her daughter is attending the same school and absolutely hates the place. How can I find the school that's the best match for my unique kid?
A: I think you have the right idea—you don't need the best school, but the school that's best for your daughter. But don't confuse best with perfect. Even a really good fit for your student will probably still have something she doesn't like—something that's not quite right. So, be very careful that "best fit" doesn't mean "absolutely everything I want."
With that said, I'm certain there are a few options out there that would be a very good match for your daughter. What are her academic interests? What are her primary social and spiritual needs? What are her top five or six "non-negotiables" in the search? What are those areas that are negotiables—important but not as important as those non-negotiables? After some brainstorming, she needs to create a checklist—ranking it from most important to least important. Talk about each item on the list. Ask questions: Why is this important to you? Is this one really a non-negotiable? Is there anything missing from your list?
Next, it's time to screen schools. Begin by checking out schools advertised in this guide and visiting their websites. Also, attend a college fair. When your daughter has found several schools that seem to be good matches, I always recommend visiting three to five schools.
Each college visit will help your daughter get a feel for the campus and gather first hand knowledge about what areas of study the school offers. Plan to have your daughter spend the night in a residence hall and sit in a class.
During these visits, she might find one choice that rises to the top. If she does, encourage her to have a couple of fall-back schools—just in case. And throughout the entire search process, keep in mind that there are no perfect campuses, but there certainly are a few that will be a very good fit for her needs, interests and personality.
Written by Skip Trudeau