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College Decision-Making

A post-secondary placement decision is made by considering several factors. It’s nuanced, and you have to be prepared to tailor it to each student and family. Some of our students will only be considering colleges, some of our students are considering alternate pathways, and some of our students are considering both.

Regardless of which pathway they chose, we want all of our students to have a solid framework to guide their decisions.

Revisiting the Fit Factors

As stressful as the admission process is in general, waiting for decisions to arrive is a particularly difficult time for students. One way to assist students after application submission is to have them revisit things that are important to them when it comes to envisioning themselves on campus. You may ask the student a variety of questions to help facilitate this process, like those you see here.

Visiting the Campus

Some of the things students should do  during a campus visit include: speaking with an admission officer, taking a tour, attending a class, meeting with a professor in an area that interests you, eating a meal on campus, talking with a coach or advisor of an extracurricular activity that interests you, etc. Read more about college visits here. 

If a campus visit is not possible, participate in a virtual campus tour and contact the admission office with questions. Many institutions organize admitted student events, which can help students narrow down their choices. Prior to accepting an offer of admission, students are strongly encouraged to visit the campus at least once.

Focusing on College Affordability

Lack of knowledge about financial aid is one of the main reasons why students experience summer melt.  It is crucial that students do not choose a school they cannot pay for. Read more about comparing financial aid awards here.

If students choose a school with a  gap, work with them and your PSP PM to help them come up with ways to address it. Remind them that once their bill is due (usually in June or July) it has to be paid before they can enroll in classes. 

Read about options for addressing financial aid gaps here.

Working with Families

For many students who plan on matriculating to college after high school, college can feel like their first major “adult” decision. Although some students feel like the decision on which college to attend should solely be theirs, it is important to work with them and their families on what makes sense for their postsecondary plans. Parents usually have a financial stake in where their child matriculates so it’s important that students have their parents’ support with regards to their final decision.

Students may hear a number of different comments from their family members that you as a college advising professional need to be able to handle. One example of this statement is: “That college is too far!” In an ideal world, students and their parents discussed all of their college choices during the application process. However, for many parents, letting a student apply to a college across the country and letting them go are two different things.

Students may ask for your support in speaking to parents about their college preferences. As a PM, it’s important to be supportive of both students and their families. In the event this occurs, you should continue to offer your expertise regarding specific schools; for instance, if a student is deciding between two business programs and you are aware of the reputation of the programs, you may point out to the student that one school has a more established business program in comparison to another. On the other hand, you need to refrain from making value judgments, such as saying “going away to school is such a better experience”. In turn, the decisions associated with the college selection process needs to be in the hand of the student and (potentially) his or her family.

Working with Mentors

Mentors can play an important role in college-decision making with their mentee. Helping mentees compare college admissions offers, break down financial aid award letters, and supporting with this important transition are just a few ways our mentors add value in supporting our students. 

Similar to parents, mentors might have specific opinions about where their mentees should matriculate. Use this handout with mentors to help them understand their role in supporting their mentees.