Parents-finding a college is similar to buying a house

When you are planning to buy a house you spend time online searching for homes. You partner with an expert—a realtor—to help you navigate the process. You look at many different houses to decide what options you really need and what you can live without. You get your finances in order and fill out mountains of paperwork. Picking a college can be a very similar process. It takes time to help your child discover their options.

Realtors help stage houses, write nice blurbs about them and post gorgeous pictures online. They don’t always show the horrible next store neighbors or massive cell tower looming over the yard. Colleges can be similar. They often put their best foot forward on a website and in brochures. They don’t often share that everyone goes home on the weekend, or there is no where to eat in town, or that their dorm rooms haven’t been remodeled in fifty years. But exploring a website can give you a basic idea of what majors are available, it’s size, what activities exist and their admission process.

You can then follow that with a virtual information session or virtual open house. Usually these include a presentation by an admissions staff member and sometimes include faculty or students sharing their experience some let you ask questions and others do not. They help you understand if you like what the college has to say about itself, the curriculum and student life. Your student should leave with a feeling they want to learn more.

Once you have a list of schools your child would like to get to know better, schedule an in-person visit if possible. Open House programs usually include an admissions presentation, tour, student panel, faculty or major event, and sometimes lunch. Or schedule an information session and tour. If they have optional events like major presentations or residence hall fairs, try to go to those as well. There are many more living options than when parents want to college (singles, doubles, triples, quads, suites, Jack and Jill bathrooms, Living Learning Communities, First Year Interest Groups, coed floors, etc). Get as much info while there, take notes, and keep information organized so you can compare and contrast schools.

Admission staff also visit high schools and host virtual high school visits. If you child can make the time (and sacrifice missing class) attending can help them get to know the admissions staff member and have that “expert” to go to when they have questions about the school. College fairs can be a great way to talk to specific school staff members. Many are virtual right now. They include a panel of a few schools then breakouts with individual schools where you can ask questions. Every touch point your child makes with a school helps them learn more about the school, show your student’s interest, and get closer to a decision about where to attend.

If you need more expert help navigating the admission process, Coffman Consulting is happy to help. It takes a lot of time to find the right house, finding a college is no different.

Published by Kate Coffman

Kate has worked in admissions, financial aid, college and career readiness for over twenty years. She most recently served as the Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Franklin College. Kate has also worked in admissions at Butler University and Indiana University. Kate has presented at numerous schools and conferences helping families, educators and those who work with youth understand how to be college and career ready, how to apply to college and how to afford their education.

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