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Help Kids Choose Right College


Career News Service -Every fall eager parents herd their high school seniors through one college campus after another, looking at the buildings, comparing architecture, dormitories, food choices and, oh yes, costs and curriculums.

But the latter two don't seem as important in many cases as the former items. Perhaps they should consider what it is the child hopes to do with his or her life, and think about the least expensive way to provide the "core courses" for that and save the big bucks for graduate school later on.

That's just one suggestion. Many more come from Barbara Cooke, author of  "Parent's Guide to College and Careers: How to Help, Not Hover," (Jist $12.95) who feels an alarming number of college students  drop out before earning their degrees, while poor grades and other mistakes often cost students scholarships and financial aid.  So, she feels, parents investing in their child's education should worry about such scenarios and question whether their child is fully prepared to handle the rigors of college life.
She also suggests parents evaluate three factors when helping their child determine which college is the best fit: the child's academic preparedness, social and emotional preparedness, and financial preparedness.
* To assess academic preparedness, compare your child's test scores to national benchmarks.
Understand your child's current skill level in reading, writing and math, and take steps to improve those skills senior year.
* To assess social and emotional preparedness, take an honest look at how well your child does in social situations.
How resilient and resourceful is your child? How well does she communicate her needs to instructors and reach out other adults who direct her to resources? How well does she manage time and balance work and activity commitments? How does she do in unregulated social situations?
* To assess financial preparedness, make sure your clearly understand how student loans work and calculate how much your child can comfortably borrow in student loans.
Understand how different college majors develop different skills for the job market and don't let your child borrow more than she will be able to repay given the marketability of her degree.
According to Cooke, "A student who is strong both academically and socially and who has unlimited financial resources might be encouraged to go anywhere. A student who is strong academically but socially and emotionally tentative might be encouraged to look at schools closer to home. And an academically weak student who is socially weak, even with unlimited resources, might be wise to attend college close to home until he or she has demonstrated he or she is capable of college-level work."
"Remember, there is no 'one size fits all' way to choose a college and no one 'right' college for every student," Cooke explains. "The transition to college is a major developmental milestone, and not all students are at the same developmental stage when they graduate from high school. College choice should be made accordingly."

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