Let's talk about how to make that final decision about what college to attend.
Sometimes it's REALLY easy to make a decision. It's easy when the teen loves the college, and the parent has figured out a way to make it affordable. Other times it can be EXTREMELY difficult! When the cost is similar, and the universities both have compelling virtues, how do you decide?
If you are just starting to look at colleges, and don't even know how the decision even starts, this free ebook will help, Finding a College You Love.
But for those in the midst of senior year, the decision process may look like this. Pray first! And listen. Then ...
Count the Cost
Compare the out-of-pocket cost of each college.
Can you write the first check to attend?
Can you continue writing checks to cover the cost for four years?
Consider what percentage of that college students graduate in 4 years.
Consider how much your child is costing you now (children are never free, after all!).
Consider how much you spend to homeschool your child now (that cost will stop).
Consider your savings, or the investment relatives have volunteered to make.
Feel the Feelings
Parent and teen both have feelings.
When all else is equal, remember that it's the teen who must feel comfortable there.
Can he or she live there for all four years?
Can he or she study there for all four years?
Attend an overnight visit to help clarify feelings.
Go where the professors seem interested in students.
Does the school specialize in your area of interest?
Will you be challenged, but not overwhelmed?
Can you live a balanced life?
Review statistics for each college.
What is the graduation rate for completing a degree in 4 years?
What percentage of graduates get a job in their field?
What percent of graduates are admitted to a graduate program? (Law school, or Med school?)
What percentage of students return after the first year? (That's the freshman retention rate)
Discuss the parents desires for a quality education.
Is this college compatible with the parent's values?
Do they have student groups the student is interested in?
Eye the Investment
We have invested in home education all these years, because as homeschool parents we recognize the value of a good education. Like a car is an investment for a real purpose (transportation), education is also a real investment. At the same time, a wise money-manager would never buy a car they could not afford. So eye the cost of college as an investment, but don't invest more than you can be sure to pay back.
Remember that college is an investment in the future.
Talk to companies your kids are interested in, to see if they like that school "we only hire from this school"
Read the alumni magazine.
Consider the relative value of debt, and whether you are investing more than you can afford. Be careful about debt for you and your teen. Carefully examine your cost our of pocket for each college. Parents should be saving for retirement, not financing college for their children. Our children will graduate college and want to marry and find a home, so college debt can put that plan off for ten years or more. If you do finance college, make sure it's a reasonable amount. Here is a simple way to look at it. How much could your child repay if they lived at home for a year after college and worked full time at McDonald's for one year? That's your worst case scenario. Now, everyone has their own views on how much debt is acceptable. I don't recommend going into debt for college.
Beware of Cosigning Loans
You may be asked to cosign a loan for your child. I looked at what scripture said, and it was pretty clear that I was not to cosign a loan for my children. In case you're interested, I was looking at these verses: Proverbs 6:1-3 and Proverbs 17:18. Most financial advisers do not recommend cosigning loans for college, as you will be financially liable should your child fail to pay the loan back for any reason - and that can put your home and retirement plans at risk. Suze Orman, Dave Ramsey, Larry Burkett all agree. Don't lend money to your child with the expectation it will be given back.
Teens: when the parent is financing college, they get to make the ultimate decision, because their checkbook is on the line.
Parents: remember that it's your teen who will be living there for four whole years, so consider their feelings and concerns.
Work together to discuss how you came to make a difficult decision.
After the Decision
Pray Some More! Then buy the sweatshirt, and start calling yourself a student of your favorite college. This isn't a marriage - you can transfer to another college if you are unhappy, after all! So for right now, just embrace the fact that you have chosen the best college for YOU! Start preparing what you need to take with you! College Packing List
When I went to college, I chose my college based on which choice had the top-rated nursing school, and everything else was a far-distant concern. My husband chose a small, private school because it has an engineering program, it was familiar because his siblings had attended there, and he wanted to avoid taking his first year of college at a huge university.
Everyone chooses for different reasons. What other factors have helped you decide on what college to attend?