National Decision Day — 5 ways to choose the right college

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On May 1st, many first-time college applicants anticipate publicly announcing where they plan to go to college. Social media platforms will be flooded with students sharing pictures of themselves sporting gear from their new colleges. 

While National Decision Day is something many students look forward to, the days leading up to it can be met with anxiety. After all, the next four or more years are critical as your student transitions into adulthood and pursues what they want to do for the rest of their life. 

As a parent, you may be wondering how to help guide your student to make the right choice. With many aspects for them to keep in mind, the process can feel overwhelming. 

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Here are five ways you can help your student in making a decision about what college to attend.

1. Consider their major. One of the top reasons a student will select a higher education institution is based on the major or program of interest offered, according to a recent study by College Pulse. The first step your student should take in choosing a college should be evaluating whether their college of interest has their desired major.

In this May 18, 2019 file photo, pedestrians pass through Ohio State University's student union in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State University wants to trademark the word "The" when used as part of the school’s name on university merchandise.  (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

In this May 18, 2019 file photo, pedestrians pass through Ohio State University’s student union in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State University wants to trademark the word “The” when used as part of the school’s name on university merchandise.  (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

To learn more about the programs offered, your student can ask to talk to a current professor about how the degree your student selected will help in their field of study. Encourage your student to look into the core courses required for their major and compare the courses to what other colleges offer. This can help them determine which university provides the right path for them.

Your student should also evaluate how successful the college’s program is in preparing its graduates for the workforce. One way to accomplish this is to determine the program’s postgraduate employment rate.

2. Research postgraduate success. Many colleges will feature employment rates or where their graduates work to show the achievements and validity of their programs on their websites or in brochures. If your student is not able to find that information online, have them reach out to their admission counselor or the dean of the college. It’s important your student knows their prospective college’s graduate employment success rate.

CAMBRIDGE, USA - APRIL 2, 2018: view of the historic architecture of the famous Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

CAMBRIDGE, USA – APRIL 2, 2018: view of the historic architecture of the famous Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
(iStock)

At Southeastern University, our nursing program has a 100% employment rate upon graduation. Our graduates have gone on to work at some of the top hospitals in the nation. There’s no better way to show a student that they can be successful than by looking at how other graduates have fared.

Another factor to consider is how the college your student chooses will equip them for further education, such as earning an advanced degree or certifications. This could include preparing them for law school, medical school, passing entrance exams, teacher certifications or CPA test prep. At the end of the day, your student needs to know that the degree they are earning will help them pursue their career.

3. Select a school with similar values. A college campus culture can be pivotal in your child’s personal life as they transition into adulthood. Your student should find out what their desired college’s core values and mission statement are and make sure they align with their own principles. 

Students walk on the campus of Howard University, one of six historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) across the United States that received bomb threats, in Washington, U.S. January 31, 2022.    

Students walk on the campus of Howard University, one of six historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) across the United States that received bomb threats, in Washington, U.S. January 31, 2022.    
(REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger)

I often tell students to ask themselves if the school they are choosing will help them grow as an individual and contribute to their personal development.

One of the main reasons students say they chose to attend Southeastern is because we are a faith-based institution. Students want a place where they are surrounded by individuals of similar lifestyles and where they can grow academically and in their faith.

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Although a school may seem to have everything your student wants, if it doesn’t align with their core values, it can make their time on campus miserable. While every transition into college is difficult at first, having the right campus culture can make a difference in their experience and whether they thrive during and after college.

COLLEGE PARK, MD - OCTOBER 20:  Pedestrians walk across the Chapel Lawn at The University of Maryland College Park on Thursday October 20, 2016.  (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

COLLEGE PARK, MD – OCTOBER 20:  Pedestrians walk across the Chapel Lawn at The University of Maryland College Park on Thursday October 20, 2016.  (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

4. Weigh the cost differences. The price tag of college and incurring debt are the top concerns parents and students have heading into the 2022-23 academic year. And, 98% of families say that financial aid is necessary to pay for college according to a 2022 Princeton Review survey.

Before your student makes a decision about where to go to school, it’s important that they evaluate the cost, the scholarships they will receive and the amount of debt they will incur. Make sure they understand their financial aid award letters and have them ask financial aid counselors if they have any questions.

Students on campus at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. 

Students on campus at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. 
(Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Your student should also consider how much they will earn with their degree once they graduate. They will need to earn enough after graduation to justify the cost. In other words, they need to find the best return on investment.

5. Evaluate the location. Does your student want to go to college close to home or move to a different state? The College Pulse survey found that one of the top reasons a student selects a college is its proximity to home. Since the pandemic hit, more students were searching for universities close to home to help curb the cost.

University of Louisville campus. 

University of Louisville campus. 
((Credit: University of Louisville))

Wherever your student ends up, they will want to figure out what amenities and attractions are offered in the city where they will live. They also may want to consider places for employment and professional networks they can get involved in.

Although the campus culture is important, it’s likely they will spend their weekends around the town. Southeastern is located in Central Florida, which makes it easy to visit some of the most beautiful beaches in the country during the weekends. With the busyness of school work and activities, your student will want somewhere close by that they can get away to de-stress.

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Making the choice of where to go to college is a big deal, and your student should feel celebrated this National Decision Day. Invite friends and family over to commemorate the day. 

Be sure to encourage your student to enjoy the moment, take lots of pictures with their new college gear and share their news publicly. The next few months leading up to college should feel exciting for your student as they step into this new chapter of life.

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Mojtaba Sadira

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