Get stories and expert advice on all things related to college and parenting.
Dual Enrollment: Taking College Classes in High SchoolSuzanne Shaffer
Helping a student choose a college? My advice is simple: Avoid the “Therefores.”
Through the years in my work in college admissions and as a college planning advisor, I’ve heard many variations on the 12 statements below from parents and students. It will be clear from my responses that I am a champion of small colleges.
I am not anti-big university, nor am I anti-community college. If an institution fits a student, then that is the place for them. I just don’t want parents and students to automatically exclude small private colleges from their search based on these common assumptions.
Eighty to 90 percent of small private colleges use the money they raise from alumni and other donors to make college affordable. In many cases, parents will spend the same or even less at a small college as they would at the big state U’s.
A brilliant student does not have to attend an Ivy or any highly selective college. Many times, at small private colleges that are a bit less selective, the 4.6 GPA/36 ACT student is given research, publishing and presentation opportunities (even as a freshman) which help build their resume and enable them to get into the same graduate programs as the Ivy League students.
Small private colleges are great for the undecided student. Class sizes tend to be smaller and advising is usually done by a member of the faculty. Professors put teaching and mentoring students above all else.
Also, General Education classes are NOT something to be “gotten out of the way” (like pushing peas and carrots to the edge of your plate). They are the very foundation of your entire educational experience.
Despite what the rankings say, there is no “best college for X major.” Assuming that a particular college is THE place for engineering or business or any other major makes your search too narrow.
Law schools (and med schools) admit students from many different majors. I always tell pre-law students to major in whatever they want to do if they decide to not be a lawyer.
Small classes at private colleges often provide the individual attention needed to help the C student become an A/B student.
Comparing the size of a high school to the size of a college is like comparing a ping pong ball to a bowling ball. Other than the fact that both have people, food and classes, high schools and colleges are not at all alike.
Religious affiliations at small private colleges vary greatly, from those that require chapel or a statement of faith, to those that only require a couple religion/philosophy classes, to those whose affiliation is mostly historical and have no required religious “anything.”
Ask questions, but don’t dismiss an entire class of colleges from your search.
Having 40,000 close friends is impossible. After working at six different small colleges, I have a theory, purely from observation, that friendship groups tend to be bigger at small colleges than at large universities.
More than 500 colleges automatically discount the cost for ALL students immediately upon admission, regardless of income. Many schools offer merit aid to their top applicants regardless of a family's income level.
Fraternity and sorority life is vibrant at a lot of small private colleges. Based on a number of criteria (GPA, lack of hazing incidents, level of community service and philanthropy), Best College Reviews ranks smaller colleges highly for their quality of Greek life.
Programs in math, computer science, engineering and other STEM disciplines are very strong at many liberal arts colleges. In fact, companies recruit heavily from small private colleges because their graduates have also learned valuable soft skills such as leadership, communication, teamwork, creativity, time management and more.
This is not a one-size-fits-all world.
My advice to parents is simple: Avoid the “therefores.”
Don’t simply follow the herd. Research carefully. Visit. Give small colleges a chance! Use your head and your heart, and encourage your student to do the same.