I talk a lot about school affordability, but there is more to finding the right school for your student. In the years leading up to high school graduation, it’s helpful to check out college campuses whenever possible to get a feel for the many variations of a college education there are out there. In the early stages, you don’t have to be so particular - convenience and opportunity are the biggest reasons to visit a school. Mind you, this is also a perfect opportunity to remind your student that, ultimately, it won’t make sense to apply to schools that aren’t financially feasible.
As you move into sophomore and junior year, though, and the summer before senior year, your school exploration should become a lot more strategic. As you start developing a school list, consider the following for an on-campus tour:
Since an in-state education is relatively affordable for most students, it makes sense to put at least one or two such options on your campus tour list. Sure, the big flagship school is a good stop, but don’t ignore the smaller state schools, especially if they specialize in an area of particular interest.
Out Of State
This is a great option if there are out of state schools with reciprocity agreements for your state, or your student has a keen interest in a specific program and the school is affordable for your family.
Once you’ve narrowed down a list of private schools that are affordable for your specific need and merit profile and also make a good academic fit, adding a variety of these schools to your list is a great way to see what’s out there. Compare schools from urban and rural areas, large and small student populations, warm and cold weather, and any other variations that are of interest.
A Word To The Wise
When your student is getting serious about narrowing down their school list, don’t visit schools that are out of your price range without a heart-to-heart on what it would take for them to actually attend that school, meaning, most likely they’d have to spend a LOT of time applying for outside scholarships or hold down part and full-time jobs while in school to help pay the bill. The last thing you want is for your student to get their heart set on a school that is going to require them to take out excessive student loans. That 4-year dream school can quickly become a 25-year debt nightmare upon graduation - something no parent wants to see their kid go through.