How do you narrow down the college selection?

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Registered: 05-27-1998
How do you narrow down the college selection?
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Mon, 02-13-2012 - 8:16am

My daughter is a junior in HS and is starting her college search. She has picked out several colleges to tour over her spring break (she has two weeks off in March), so we are flying to the west coast to check these out during one of her weeks. (We live in Mass.) The other week, we will spend touring colleges in our area.

The problem is that she has a lot of interests. She's fairly sure she wants to go to a school with a strong liberal arts curriculum, but beyond that, she really doesn't know geographic area she would like to be in. I feel as if we are just throwing arrows at a dart board at this point.

Since we are at the beginning of the search, I have a sense that once she starts actually looking, things will get clearer. Was this the case for your kids?

And how do they choose a safety school they'd be willing to attend if it were the only school that accepted them? So far, all the schools she has chosen to visit are super competitive. She is well-qualified for these places, but as we know, so are the other thousands of applicants, so she does need to pick a few less competitive schools.

Finally, when you and your spouse have differing attitudes about his, how do you resolve it? I'm a lot more laissez-faire about the whole process, because I feel that it's really our daughter's choice. DH is more concerned about the reputation of the school--for example, DD said she'd like to look at Pepperdine, but DH told her it was a "crappy" school and she'd be wasting her time. He also insisted that she look at UC Berkeley even though she has no desire to go there.

Thoughts?

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Avatar for suzyk2118
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Registered: 07-30-1997
Mon, 02-13-2012 - 11:43am
DS's HS had use of this software (I think it was Naviance?) that had such great tools. There was a checklist that basically led you through the size of school, the environment (urban, rural, etc.), the climate, the majors, activities, etc. that really helped (in his case he only wanted one place and thankfully got in, and neither of us had issues with this choice). It gave you a quiz on the types of things you like to do and narrowed what fields would be good to consider. It provided scattergrams (I also like those on cappex) for GPA and ACT/SAT to see the likelihood of entry based on kids who applied vs. just the online stats. The tools on there were great and helped ensure ds made the right choice.

Some (most?) Us seem to have online tours so you can at least virtually see what it's like, but yeah, there's nothing like taking a tour and getting the feel of the place in person.

As far as differing opinions, I'd say I was more in your court - if the student doesn't get to choose and take ownership of the choice, I'd suspect they may not be as happy with where they end up. And it also depends on if she wants to go to grad school - IMHO the choice of grad school makes more of a difference than the undergrad. In ds's case he really wanted to go to this particular U and his fallback was to go to CC and transfer if he didn't make it in from the start. He also knows what grad school he wants and even as a college soph has been dealing with them on what is needed to get in for their program (and he would have never made it into Pepperdine! But then that type of environment wouldn't have suited him either.

Sue
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Registered: 01-27-1999
Mon, 02-13-2012 - 11:46am
My oldest D had specific interests. Narrowed the search for us. The younger, a cruurent hs sophomore, wants something offered almost anywhere. How to narrow the list? For us, it's going to come down to money.

I word about a "safety," however. It's not really a safety if she gets admitted but can't pay the bills. Your safeties--and there should be at least 2--are schools where she can be admitted and that you can PAY FOR without financial aid. I'm going to suggest you run a FAFSA Forecaster to get an idea of what your EFC will be. That number is the minimum you will expected to pay for college. Federal loans are generally included in the aid package, so don't count of those to bring down your EFC.

Top schools use the Profile for determining need. Unlike the FAFSA, it asks about the value of your home and retirement account balances. Expect your contribution to be higher at profile schools with the exception of the top ivies.

Finally, to help your d narrow the search herself, give her a number. Tell her you can pay "X" a year for college. She can pick her own safeties, some dream schools, and a few others where she has a decent shot at merit aid. Then see what the offers are in April of her senior year. Be sure to factor plane fare into the costs if she goes far away.

As for H? Berkeley is a state school (UC) with almost no aid to give out of state students. The price tag, I believe, would be over 50K a year for you. Once you run your numbers, the H might back off on some of his choices if they're unaffordable.
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-27-1998
Mon, 02-13-2012 - 12:14pm

Thanks for your reply. I think part of our dilemma is that we don't need financial aid, so value, rather than price, becomes a much bigger issue. For example, I'd rather pay $50 K for Middlebury, which seems more like the type of school where DD will be happy, than $50K for Berkeley. I don't think state schools, even great ones, are a good value to anyone if you don't live in that particular state, especially if you can get

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-27-1998
Mon, 02-13-2012 - 12:27pm

Her school does have Naviance and she's waiting for her turn with the adviser (it's a small school, and there's only one adviser) to set up her account. She has done the College Board and College Confidential match tools, and although the schools came up about the same on both sites, they are all over the US. Personally, I would love to see her take a close look at Pepperdine, since one of the reasons for her interest is its strong support for Christian students without actually being a Christian college, which she doesn't want. I think DH is just operating on old information and his family's biases!

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-19-2006
Mon, 02-13-2012 - 1:58pm
My son goes to a state school as an out of state student but he got enough aid to make it the same price as our in-state option (Penn State). He knew what he wanted to do, engineering, and even narrowed it down to geological or civil engineering. We encouraged a state school since it is so much cheaper than a private school. Besides, Penn State has one of the best geology departments in the country and it has a great engineering program. He only applied to 3 schools, but was really only interested in 2. I am not really sure why he applied to Perdue. He got in but he never really considered it. It came down to Penn State and Colorado School of Mines. When CSM offered him a decent scholarship, and their price became equivalent to Penn State he decided to go with CSM. It all seemed very logical, but we are a family of engineers so I guess that is how our brains work. He is very happy at CSM. I think it is a good experience for him in a lot of ways besides the academics. This may sound strange, but as liberal Jews from the east coast I think it is good for him to be exposed to conservatives from the middle of the country. He has found that the CSM student body is extremely conservative and many of his friends are evangelical Christians. It is really making him think about his views and what he really believes and help him to better understand the thought process of others. Robin
Avatar for mahopac
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-1997
Mon, 02-13-2012 - 2:58pm

19yo DS and 17yo DD started the same way, at Collegeboard.org.

Avatar for mahopac
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-1997
Mon, 02-13-2012 - 3:10pm

I didn't answer your question about picking safety schools.

Use collegeboard.com and lower the academic standards.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-27-1998
Mon, 02-13-2012 - 3:15pm

Thank you for the advice wrt what the students say. That is very helpful! I know DD would freak if her roommate was a party hound. I think the search for a fairly sober school should help her narrow things down quite a bit.

And an experience that is a good value is what we are looking for. I know it's controversial but I am not on the "get an engineering

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-19-2006
Mon, 02-13-2012 - 3:36pm
Wanting a school that was not a party school was really high on my son's list as well and was a big reason he chose Colorado School of Mines over Penn State, and why he did not apply to Lehigh at all. We kept hearing stories about the prevalence of drug and alcohol use at Lehigh. Fair or not fair it totally turned my son off. I guess that was for the best as the cost of Lehigh was not something that excited me. My son had good enough scores and grades etc. to qualify for admission so he very well might have gotten in, but his scores were not high enough to get him a merit scholarship so the 50+K per year tuition seemed really high. As for the "engineering bandwagon", well you shouldn't be on it if that is not what you want to do, but if that is what interests you there is no point in getting a liberal arts degree. Your daughter has to study whatever it is that interests her and her chose of schools certainly will be determined by her interests.
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-27-1998
Mon, 02-13-2012 - 3:56pm

Yep, we've heard similar stories. An older brother of one of DD's friends was certain he'd get into Dartmouth--he was at the top of his class, won awards every year, top SATs,

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