Prioritize What You Want in Your College Experience

You thought your child’s college list was in its final stages . . . your son or daughter had attended virtual information sessions, taken live-stream tours, and carefully investigated college websites. And then they come to you in some state of distress, not at all sure that they are happy with the colleges on their list. How much of this is a result of not being able to visit a campus, you wonder, or displaced anxiety about the state of the world in general.

If your child is struggling to finalize their college list, sometimes it helps to go back to the beginning. In order to find colleges that are a good “fit,” students need first to understand themselves and then what they want in a college.

Understanding themselves is not a quick exercise but requires careful thought. Before your son or daughter can build a college list, they need to know what inspires them, what interests them. Your child needs to spend some time on this: take a walk, write in a journal, look in the mirror and talk to themselves! Whatever they do, they want to reflect on who they are, what they like and dislike, what makes them tick.

Here are some resources that can help them think about themselves:

After your child has thought about their interests, likes and dislikes, they need to think about what they want and do not want in a college.  One way to sort out what characteristics they want in a college is via Corsava, on online card game. Corsava cards come in two forms – an actual deck of cards or an online version. Each card identifies a specific aspect of college  – research opportunities, academic majors and programs, support services, campus facilities, etc. and students are asked to rate their importance to them – is this a “must have,” a “would be nice,” “do not care,” or “no way.” After going through the deck of cards, students can either look at their piles (if using an actual deck) or an online “report” that identifies what are aspects of college are most important to them. They can then take that information and make sure a college has that quality – so if internships are a “must have” your son or daughter should investigate the college’s career services center and get information about the percentage of students who do internships and what support, if any, the career services center provides for students seeking internships.

Here is another resource that can help your child think about what they want and do not want in a college:

After spending time thinking about themselves a little more, and focusing on what they prioritize for their college experiences, most students come back to their original college list with a great sense of confidence, better able to know whether colleges on their list are places they really can thrive – academically and socially – colleges that are, in fact, a good fit for them.