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How to Select the Best-Fit College for Your Child

Every year when I meet with the incoming senior class, the students eagerly tell me that they plan to attend the same top seven colleges: Stanford, Harvard, Yale, UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, and Cal Poly. At 17 years old, these college-bound students don’t have a clue what these particular colleges have to offer. Like most high school students, they usually conjure up a list of the most prestigious colleges they think they might get in to – not the colleges that would be the best fit for them.

One student and her family insisted that Santa Clara University would be the best college for her. They filled out the Merit College Worksheet to find “back-up” colleges just in case she didn’t get in to SCU. After filling out the worksheet and covering up the names of the colleges, this student ranked her colleges based on their majors and found that SCU ranked 14 th place out of 14 colleges. She almost applied to a college that did not offer her top three majors.

Before selecting colleges, students should first consider possible majors and careers. By knowing what they’re interested in studying, they can eliminate colleges that don’t offer their top majors and focus on colleges with strong programs that cater to their career options. While some students may know at age 12 that they want to be an engineer, other students are unclear about their options. There are many career tests that students can take that will start the discussion about potential professions.

Naturally, most high school students don’t know what they want to be for the rest of their lives, but most can tell you what they don’t want to be. Narrowing down career options often helps students discover areas of interest. By filling in five to 10 majors on the Merit College Worksheet, the students become familiar with the majors and the departments at their colleges. Exploring college websites also gives the students another way to evaluate programs and to compare colleges.

After completely filling in their Merit College Worksheet, the students rank their colleges based on important information like majors offered, athletics, location, size, etc. rather than a prestigious name. When students select colleges that offer most of the qualities that they are interested in, they are more likely to be successful at these colleges.



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