As we head into the start of a new school year, many teens and families are thinking about college. In past posts, we have talked about ways to pay for college without breaking the bank. A question of equal and maybe greater importance is, how do you choose the college that is the best fit?

This week I read a great article in Thriving Family magazine that addresses this topic. The author, Jeanne Gowen Dennis, suggests three ways to help the student in this important decision.

1) Discover the student’s unique talents.

It is important to remember that college is more than just an education. To help choose the college that is the right fit, the author suggests having the student privately answer several questions:

  • What have been your most fulfilling experiences?
  • What did you enjoy most about them?
  • Which skills or talents did you use most during these experiences?
  • Do you prefer working alone or on a team?
  • What ages do you enjoy working with most?
  • Which have been your least fulfilling activities?
  • What made them fulfilling?
  • What ideas or activities excite your imagination and inspire you to make a difference for others?

Honestly answering these questions will help the student ascertain his/her strengths, talents and weaknesses, according to Ms. Dennis.

2) Match the school’s strengths to the student’s.

  • Determine the college factors that are most important to the student (and the parents) and rank the factors in order of importance.
  • Consider majors that match the student’s strengths.
  • Choose a few colleges that meet the important factors and that have the majors chosen.
  • Before completing applications, visit the colleges. The author suggests visiting during the school term so the student can stay in the dorm and attend classes with students.

3) Discuss financial and other realities with the student.

  • What can the family afford?
  • What expenses will be the responsibility of the student?
  • Will the student miss any holidays at home?

Choosing a college is a very important decision, one that can affect the rest of the student’s life. Taking the time to determine the best fit for the student is time well spent.

The full article, “Helping Your Teen Choose a College,” can be found here:

Judith Ackland has more than 26 years of experience in accountancy and financial planning, including seventeen years as a CFO of a diverse business. She started Crystal Financial in 2010 to help a wide array of individuals, families, and business owners better understand their finances and how good financial management could help them achieve their goals. Judith has an MA in Professional Accountancy from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as well as a Certified Public Accountant Certificate and a Certified Financial Planner designation.

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