The final waves of college acceptances are rolling in, leaving many high school seniors and their parents with a complicated choice. Too often, even this choice becomes yet another source of anxiety for families. There’s so much emphasis on college and its promise, so much time and energy spent on the process, that it can yield the false notion of a perfect match.
Social media has fueled this pressure, setting up expectations for four years of a Disney-esque collegiate utopia filled with students smiling at tailgates, lounging on Adirondack chairs, and becoming lifelong besties with the kids they meet at orientation.
It’s a dangerous fiction.
The truth is there is NO perfect school, and there is no ONE right school for your child. Chances are your child would be happy at several schools. And none of them will be absolutely everything your kid wants. Likely there will be lousy food, roommate issues, transition bumps, classes they can’t get into or dread, and growing pains. Lots of them. There will be amazing opportunities at all of them, too.
It’s important to tease out emotion, rankings, and what your child’s best friend’s father thinks. Instead, think about which school is most likely to offer the greatest possibilities for personal, academic, social, and professional growth for your – and only your – child.
It's exciting that your child has multiple schools to choose from! And it's crucial that your child owns the decision. In addition to the always-helpful pro/con list, consider posing the following questions to help them make that decision, without imposing your opinions.
Talk to me about what excites you about each school…
Which schools offer academic programs that are most interesting and/or conducive to you exploring your interests?
Where did you feel most comfortable? Why? (think about size, student body, location, energy.)
Which school culture (spirit, Greek life, level of parties, sports, academic intensity) speaks to you and the experience you hope to have?
What communities and organizations on each campus do you look forward to joining?
Which schools do you imagine will help you grow?
Looking at your HS experience, what do you want to hold onto and what do you hope is different? Which schools align with those feelings?
Where do you think you’ll find your people?
Where do you picture yourself?
Remember: They bring themselves wherever they go! Ultimately, their mindset is likely to be more important than which college they choose. An open and positive mindset - the willingness to immerse themselves in the many opportunities any college will offer – will have them believing they made the right choice, no matter which choice they made. So, remind them: Strive for possibility - not perfection.