Wednesday’s Parent: Hunting and gathering a college list Part 2

Creating a college list. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Creating a college list. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

A lot is riding on making a good college list. Your student will be applying to the schools on the final list so they better offer the best chance for student success. It’s so important that Suzanne and I are giving our tips in two parts. Last week’s Part 1 was about general criteria and today’s Part 2 is about refining the list.

Thinking of the college list process as that of gathering and hunting means discovering how well suited each college is to the student and determining where he is most likely to thrive. From over 4,000 schools, many may be ruled out by location, school requirements and college stats. The next step is to find those eight institutions of higher learning most likely leading to student success. These are the ones the student will apply to and be happy to attend.

The definition of student success varies with each student. The key is what each school will do to keep the student on track to graduate and obtain the academic/extracurricular experiences she desires. They should include:

  • set time to graduate
  • short term goals
  • long term goals

Could there be more or less than eight final schools on the list? Yes, but be mindful there are hefty application fees that do not go towards paying the college tuition bill. There should be enough schools to provide the student with options. Once those admission offers are extended, he will be reevaluating based on his own student growth and the college’s financial aid awards.

Here are five ways parents may help their child find their college matches:

  1. Visit A visit to a college campus accomplishes two major things. It judges the fit of a good on paper school and provides that intangible and very personal sixth sense gut reaction of yea or nay. (Warning – parents may have a totally opposite gut reaction.) Parents may help their students with a “collegecation.”
  2. Categorize Parents may help their students organize their college list. Counselors often advise placing schools into three groups: safety, target and reach. These categories are based on school requirements and student credentials to determine likelihood of admission. By going further, students will focus on nuances to pick a school based on its own unique flavor.
  3. Connect Social media provides a multitude of ways for students and parents to learn more (pros and cons) about the college, other prospective students, current students, alumni, and professors. For parents, many schools have social media and website information devoted to parents and families as well as a parent association. Sometimes parents of college students serve as college promoters so it is helpful to consider the source of all info.
  4. Rank The amount of information acquired from college research is staggering. Parents may help their students create spread sheets to organize the info according to what is most important to their child. This is about creating a personal college rating system based on pros and cons for your student to attend.
  5. Support The parent role here is to support your child because if she is not vested in the college experience, she won’t do her best. This may lead to a waste of time, money and energy. Listen more than speak to encourage your student to analyze the facts, understand his emotions, and make good decisions.

Read Suzannes’s blog Finding the Best Fits–A College List Part 2


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

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