Q. My child is a high school senior and has begun the college application process. How do I help her chose the right school?

A. There are several things to consider.

First, help your child list what she wants in a school – location, size, cost, academic majors and extra-curricular opportunities. Then discuss how the colleges she applied to were selected.

Visit the colleges’ websites and make a chart that compares what each has to offer. The College Board website is a great resource to do comparisons. It provides college-bound students and their parents a range of information, from college admissions and financial aid to entrance test preparation. Students also can register there for the SAT and SAT II tests.

Look at schools your child may not have considered. Some may be a better match. I suggest applying to at least three.

Visit each school on your short list. I believe parents should always visit schools with their child. Parents will have a different perspective and will ask questions and notice things that a child may not.

Visit on a week day when classes are in session, or see if the school sponsors a senior day for prospective students. This will help you get a feel for the atmosphere while students are there.

If you know students who attend the schools you are interested in, talk with them and their parents and ask about their experiences.

When weighing one school against another, consider the academic major your child is interested in and the admission requirements of each. For example, a university’s school of nursing may accept a limited number of students. Applications are normally submitted during the sophomore year of college. If your child does not get admitted to the program of her choice, she may have to change her major or apply elsewhere.

Finally, consider whether your child will be attending a graduate program (medical, law, social work, etc.). If so, consider the total cost of attending each school and the financial impact to you and your child. And, of course, you want to be assured that the school’s undergraduate program properly prepares students for graduate school and the workforce.

Selecting the “right” college is important. But there may be several schools that fit that category. Don’t over-stress about making the perfect choice, but do begin the process with purpose and a plan. Talk constantly with your child, focus on the important things and stay organized. By doing these things, I’m sure whatever decision you make will be the right one.

For a list of questions to ask during a college visit, email us at mccs@maciecaldwell.org.

Macie Caldwell is owner of Macie Caldwell Consulting Services (www.maciecaldwell.org), a Charlotte firm that provides information, tools and resources to parents, students and organizations to assist in preparing students early for college.

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