Creating the Perfect College List [Part Three]: Choosing Colleges Based on Your Priorities

Let’s start out this discussion of college lists with a basic premise: Each and every college on your child’s list should be one that they would be happy to attend. But what does happiness truly mean in this case? For many students and families, the highest priority of all is a college’s position on a list of top colleges. However, I would strongly disagree that simply because a college is ranked number 10 then it is a better fit than a college that is ranked number 15. To me, the highest priority in creating an appropriate college list is a ensuring a student’s happiness. However, defining happiness can be quite elusive since happiness is a multidimensional concept that takes into account a diverse range of characteristics. However, if you take my advice and actually spend time understanding and writing down the unique factors that would make your child happy, you will be roughly halfway through the process of formulating the perfect college list.

For example, would your child be happier at a small college or a large university? Would they thrive more in smaller classes with a lot of interaction or in larger settings? Would they be happy attending a college in a rural setting knowing that the vast majority of their time would be spent on campus, or would they prefer to be closer to the action offered by a college located in or near a big city?

Socially, ask yourself if your child would be happier living in a dorm with many students of disparate interests and backgrounds. Or, would they prefer a college with a strong Greek culture – where many students live off campus on fraternities or sororities? Also socially, would your child be happier at a school with a strong sports culture, arts culture, or music culture? Would they be happier at a college where students are driven by competition to perform, or one where competition is discouraged in favor of collaboration?

Academically, would your child be happier studying to be an engineer, a researcher, a doctor, a lawyer, or a businessperson? Various colleges are clearly stronger in some of these areas than in others. Therefore, any college list should consider these factors. Geographically, would your child be happier in a particular region of the country? Would they prefer to be in a year-round warm weather climate, or one in which there are seasons? And then of course there are the issues of religious and political orientations. Would your child be happier at a religious-based college, a politically conservative college, or a more liberal, non-religiously-affiliated college?

This is not to discount the importance of college ranking as one legitimate factor that would make your child happy. Certainly, we can all take pride in reaching the top, whether that be the top of college rankings, the top of a corporate structure, or the highest possible heights in athletics, arts, music, or academic competitions. The point is that college rank should be only one of many factors to consider when creating a college list. Every college on that list should be a top choice, one designed to bring years of happiness and a lifetime of accomplishments.

Important Factors in Forming College [ Part Two ]

How to Create a College List [Part one]