The perfect college really does exist. Some start looking for it in U.S. News and World Report’s Top 50 Colleges. However, from experience, we know that the best place to start is by uncovering and analyzing your own strengths, goals, and interests.
Dr. Beth Dennard, owner of Bright Futures Consulting and a 30-year educational consultant expert, tells families to step away from the college rankings: “They tend to hype and add stress to an already frenzied process.” Also, rankings can be subjective and misleading. What some may list in the top 50 may not be the best fit or the affordable one for any given student.
Instead Dr. Dennard advises students and parents to: “Center every aspect of the process on the student’s strengths, goals, interests and budget.” How does one do that? Eight tips:
- Uncover those strengths, goals and interests with an accurate and reliable personality assessment such as The Birkman Report. The Birkman is so accurate and respected that many of the Fortune 500 companies use it to hire, organize and promote employees.
- Follow up the assessment by examining careers and college majors that match those strengths, interests and goals.
- Start early. Many of our clients are in the 7th and 8th grades, right at the time that they are preparing critical high school strategies, schedules and plans. It may seem like buying a pair of shoes a size too big, but our experience is that client students who start early do best. Preparing for college is a multi-step, multi-year process if it is done well.
- Find mentors, expert advocates, consultants and school counselors who are objective and have the expertise and experience to help you navigate the confusing and competitive college process.
- Manage the stress of pre-college transitions. Transitions can be tricky because major life changes require planning, disciplined work, and inter-personal understanding. Having an objective and trained consultant can ease the process and reduce stress.
- Work with a college expert to identify affordable colleges with programs of study and environments that will fit the student well. One size does not fit all! And, with many thousands of possible colleges, only an expert with a depth of knowledge and continuing research in the field is going to be aware of the possible best fits for a student.
- Use the college application process to communicate a student’s strengths, especially through the essay. As the number of college applications skyrocket for the most desirable colleges, students need help in making their applications shine in front of admissions officers.
- Parents: do not dip into your retirement funds to pay for college. Determine the college budget break-point and communicate it to the student. College costs can be supplemented with need-based aid from the college, merit scholarships, and 3rd-party scholarships such as ROTC, etc.
Summary: Finding the perfect college may well involve a professional educational consultant who works one-on-one with students and parents adding insights and successful strategies to this important, life-framing college decision. Four years at a college today can easily cost $100,000 to over $250,000. It is well worth it to get the best fit and value for your investment of time, money, and emotional energy.
Check out our list of college consulting services.