Since I grew up in Spain and attended a British school, I am having to learn how to navigate the U.S. education system along with my children. At 14 and 15, the youngest are high school freshmen. The eldest, 17, is a senior and already applying to colleges.
I must say the whole idea of college tuition, which I have zero savings for at the moment, is daunting. Never mind the apparently endless choices there are for today´s students. My husband went back to school in his 40´s so he is the one in the family we all turn to for advice and guidance on how to approach it all. But still, I often feel confused as to how we will go about choosing colleges, applying and then figuring out how to pay for them.
Surely I´m not the only mom who has these issues. Many women I know grew up in other countries and are having to figure out the system here. Heck, even women who studied in the U.S. have a hard time making heads or tails of this journey for their own children. For those reasons, I find the book How To Find the Right College by Regina H. Paul and Marie G. Segares, co-hosts of NYCollegeChat podcast, a Godsend.
At 115 pages, there is no fluff, just a lot of useful information that will help the parent and the child figure out which is the right college for him or for her. Here are some of the things you will learn in the first few chapters of this handy manual:
- The difference between public, private and proprietary colleges.
- When and why choose two-year and/or four-year colleges and universities.
- What Liberal Arts and Technical Study really mean.
- All about colleges that are historically black, Hispanic-serving, or with specific specialities.
- Why faith-based universities could be a great option even if your child isn´t religious.
- How military service academies could provide a solid education and a paid career.
- Studying abroad can be a more affordable and enriching experience.
- When a college for students with special needs is right for your child.
Also read: Going back to school in midlife
Now, this is all fine, but what to do with all this information? In chapters 6-8 you will be able to narrow down your choices by establishing what your deal breakers are. There is a discussion guide that will help you and your child figure out certain things that are non-negotiable for one or both of you. For example, choosing only colleges close to home (or colleges away from home), only public or private colleges, etc. Finally you will be able to decide what colleges you want to apply to. The authors also help you decide whether to apply to a “safety school” (one that your child is sure to be admitted at) in addition to the schools he or she really wants to attend. Then there are tips on what to do when your student has a mediocre or low SAT score, and even mediocre or low high school grades.
One of the most important pieces of advice, I believe, is that once the various schools have been selected for application, you need to take your child to actually visit them. That is the only way to get a clear picture and feeling of what attending that college would be like. That needs to be done before applying! Of course if you cannot do this because of monetary and logistical reasons, then it’s good for your child to be in touch with alumni or watch videos about the school.
One thing’s for sure, I feel more informed and empowered as a parent than I did before reading How To Find the Right College.