To High School Seniors: Make the right decision about college

As the brisk wind crossed my face and tennis balls were flying, I get to spend a lot of informal time building relationships with students and parents through coaching. I’ll admit, tennis is by no means by best sport. However, when my colleague was in a bind without a coach, I had a moment of weakness and agreed to be her assistant coach this season.

Our first home meet has come and gone, but the memories about the match do not resonate with me as much as one of my conversations with one of our team parents. The young parent has her first child graduating in six weeks from high school and he is finalizing his plans for next fall. She is very excited for him, but has been misled by the realities which are coming to her very quickly.

Parent Mistakes Recapped

The young man in which we spoke about plans on attending Washington College in Chesterton, MD. If you have ever been to the picturesque campus, it is breathtaking to say the least. One might think the student made a great decision, but I am always one to ask the parent a few basic questions.

  • What does he intend to major in?
  • Knowing he is  top notch student, I asked “How is your scholarship search was going?
  • How do you plan on paying tuition if you did not receive enough money?
  • Where is his girlfriend going to school?


Here are the parent responses, with an overabundance of ignorance to the realities college planning I may add, to the basic three questions:

  • He was leaning towards psychology, but might be interested in one of the science field after going to an on campus presentation day about STEM initiatives.
  • Well, he as been applying for everything, but hasn’t gotten any notification letters. The parent is positive as the year ends her son will learn of more money earned. In the meantime, he has earned a nice academic scholarship which pays for about 20 percent of the average $50K/per year price tag of Washington College.
  • No answer. Well scholarships should be coming in. “My husband and I are lower income so financial aide should help us out a lot.”
  • Yes, said in a beaming tone, they are both going together.

Reality Check

Face the fact: college is expensive. Unless you have a magic money tree in the backyard, your a bluechip athlete being heavily recruited, or given a full paid scholarship package, you need a plan a logical plan to pay for college. Too often, students realize their dream college is too expensive and cannot afford it. Wanting to stay, they are manipulated into borrowing large amounts of money because the expected scholarship or their low-income did not result in the necessary funds to afford college.

My response to the above uncertainties of this particular parent is echoed throughout the below advice that I freely preach to any parent I come across.

College offerings must match student’s need

Admission representatives are like used car salesmen; they want to sell you on a campus to get your money. As a result, a high school senior must place their focus beyond the superficial aspects which are being offered (i.e., style of dorm room, meal plan options, capability of cheering on a major athletic program, etc.) and focus your purpose of attending — receiving an education.

For instance, if you are attempting on becoming a nurse or engineer, then you should focus on the academic offerings within your respective department. Determine whether the professors you will be spending your time with are highly respected in their field. Run a Google search or scour the department web site and checkout their resumes, or vitae as they call in in higher education, to see whether they offer real-world experience.

Scholarship: Where can I find them?

Surprisingly, large amounts of scholarships go do get awarded because a lack of applicants. This is the time to build a great relationship with your school counselor, the gatekeeper to the future as I like to call them, to learn of every possible scholarship opportunity available. Many areas offer a lot of local scholarships, but a lot of people are pushing for them so apple for everything, regardless of the amount being offered.

Since the offerings never fully equate to what you owe, do not rely on school counselors to be the only method of finding scholarship applications. Utilize the internet and search independently and often. A lot of opportunities are available out there.

Can I afford the college I chose?

Many of us have limited resources and have to be realistic on what we can afford and how much we can put ourselves in debt going to college. Do not make the common mistake of overloading student loans; it is not free money.

Often times, a college degree is a college degree. Unless you are attending a Harvard or Duke, it doesn’t matter where your degree came from as long as you have one. It is what you put into your educational time in college that creates value in your degree.

Past Graduates Success

Institutions tout the great successes of their graduation and believe it is important seeing their successes.

You should too!

Research your school of choose and what their alums are doing. You want a place that produces top shelf graduates which can lead into internships and apprenticeships. Every connection will help when you get into the real world.

Go Single, or Attached — Far Away or Close to Home

I have encountered too many students who choose a school based off a significant other. Yes, high school and the term high school sweetheart looks grand in a personal bio. However, make the decision which is best for you. Love will work out if it is supposed to.

If you are going to school far away, make sure you already to leave that person for sometime. Moving home a few weeks into school is not ideal. If you can easily drop out once, you can do it again.



Blog post inspired by colleague Bill Welker’s education column located in The Times Leader newspaper.

This entry was posted in Ed Leadership, Parenting, Secondary Education and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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