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How To Choose The Right University For Your Child

4 min read

Deciding which college or university your son or daughter is going to attend is one of the major decisions that will affect their adult lives. Near or far, top-notch university or a smaller one with a special academic offer, public or private, on-campus or off-campus housing are but a few of the choices to be made before taking the huge step of sending your off-spring out to the world. 

The decision is not to be left on your child’s shoulders, but the whole family should be involved and supportive during the selection process. An external expert can help layout the most feasible options and guide your family through the jungle of colleges and universities to be considered. 

Many family members, friends, and even strangers mean well as they share their stories and advice about the screening process and choosing the right place for your child – says US college counsellor Jewel Walwyn.- All those opinions and recommendations can be taken into consideration, but sound guidance will come from someone who has taken the time to study the myriad of schools that are out there. Only an expert will be able to align specific colleges with the holistic needs of your child.

Now is the moment to start planning

It is never quite too early to begin thinking about college; however, when your children are starting the second last year of their secondary education, it is certainly time to start the search. This will give you enough time to evaluate all the elements and options, create a wish-list and eventually do some campus visits. Even throughout secondary schooling, the choices of institutions, courses, and extracurricular activities may have an impact on your child’s future. Paying extra attention to subjects such as maths and languages, and tutoring your child through his/her curriculum at lower school levels will help them further on and give them security and skills. 

Top criteria to take into consideration

If you are looking at universities around the world, one of the first decisions to make is where your child would like to study. Which country will suit your child’s wants and needs and offer the most fitting environment for studying – as well as living and eventually working – is not an easy question to answer. The World University Rankings lists almost 1400 universities across 92 countries in the world, based on thirteen carefully calibrated indicators that measure the institution’s performance through teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. The Masters Studyportal can also be helpful in deciding which country and college will be the best fit for your child. 

However, the university’s worldwide ranking is not the best indicator for your child’s academic success, as a smaller, local college might turn out to be a better and more feasible solution. And not all degree programs even in top-notch schools are at the same level; amongst the important factors you should consider is the academic offer of the university. There are universities that are specialised in offering specific degrees – such as law, economics, engineering, and medicine – as well as liberal arts colleges that offer a broader education, especially in the first two years of an undergraduate degree. The latter option will certainly give your child more time to figure out what their passion is and which major to choose. 

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Finances also play a large role in decision making. Especially in the US tuition rates are high – the average cost for college is $8,202 per year at public institutions at the bachelor level – and most often lead to the necessity for financial aid. Therefore, it is crucial to carefully think through the financial side before starting the application process. The US College Board offers an online tuition calculator and you can also find tuition estimates in the UK in the Complete University Guide. There are also reliable online data that compares the cost of studying in different countries. The figures vary hugely, from 0 costs in many European countries to thousands of dollars/pounds per year in the US and the UK respectively. 

There are also other important factors regarding the university’s facilities and extracurricular activities that you should consider together with your child. Will a big, international campus be appealing or is it better to choose and small, intimate community? What is the campus environment like? Is the kind of housing your child is interested in available? Does the university offer sports, music or other arts activities that your son or daughter is looking for? The size and security of the campus, as well as the degree of diversity of the student body, are to be thought through. You can also evaluate the impact your future university has on climate change or take a look at the many other rankings offered by Times Higher Education portal. 

Getting proper information

The best way to get all the answers to your questions is by booking a campus visit. A real-life visit will allow you to get a vibe of the community and you can most probably sit in on a lecture, meet with professors, visit the dorms, and most importantly, eat in the cafeterias!”, advises Jewel Walwyn. But if your dream university happens to be on the other side of the world, you can also book a skype-call with the admissions office and get a myriad of information through websites, brochures, current faculty members and former students. Apart from basic questions regarding academics and student life, you can enquire about research opportunities available to undergraduates, internships for hands-on experience, opportunities for a scholarship as an upperclassman, accessibility of professors to undergraduate students and learning support available, if needed. 

There are also counselling experts like Jewel who offer help with course selection, interest inventory, extracurricular guidance, college match list, testing guidance, timeline support, essay advisement, and the overall process of choosing a university. “Considering this is a highly stressful time for families, often it is nice to find an objective, knowledgeable person who can take the reins of the process”, Jewel Walwyn explains. Creating an overall wish-list with an expert will guide you in the right direction.

As parents, we might often feel the need to decide on behalf of our children. However, the final decision must be made by the student him/herself.

One of the best things you can do for your child is to show them that you believe in their ability to make a good decision-, says Amy McManus, a licensed family therapist based in Los Angeles-. Tell them that you are happy to assist and support them, but that you are confident they will be able to make a sound decision.


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