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  • Writer's pictureAlison Merzel

Focus on the WHY and WHAT before the HOW

For many high school students, the mechanics of the college admissions process take shape before they have even given thought to why it is they might be going to college in the first place. They take the PSAT, they take AP classes to earn college credit, they learn about upcoming college fairs, and they are asked what they want to study or what college they want to attend. Have you asked a high school junior why they are even planning to go to college? This question elicits a wide range of responses, from a blank stare to "So I can get job" or "Because my parents expect me to."

If a college degree is the next step for your student after high school, make sure to spend time helping them understand why. Why should they go to college? Why is it important for them to find a school that is the right fit not just academically, but socially, emotionally, and financially for your family?

They also need to know what they need from a college to be successful there.

Are they interested in research? What opportunities are available to undergraduate students vs. doctoral students at a large research university?

Is it important for them to have close relationships with professors? What is the access like to faculty at the school? Are the faculty more focused on teaching or research?

What kinds of students tend to be happiest at the school?

What do students do for fun on the weekends?

What percentage of students live on campus (during non-COVID times) vs. those that commute?

Students need to do a significant amount of self-reflection to determine what they need and conduct thorough research on what schools have to offer before they begin to worry about how to apply.

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