For those of us in the college admission profession, this is the time of year when we must wear multiple hats. The first group that we are corresponding with is the seniors, who have already been through the majority of the admission process. They are trying to narrow down their choices and, in some cases, persuade the folks why ‘College A’ is the right “fit” for them. Then there are the bright-eyed juniors, who are eager with anticipation and are feeling the excitement of finally breaking free, becoming independent and going away to college. There are also those juniors who are still a little stunned, wondering ‘should I go left or should I go right…?’ You have to be prepared for all types of conversations in the spring.
Emails and phone conversations can be longer and more detailed for seniors, as they are in need of a different level of connection with their top choice schools. Many are looking at the next steps involved in making a choice, and families are factoring in all aspects of college, including cost and value. This time frame brings a different set of questions to the forefront - it is no longer just about answering, ‘Do you offer “x,” “y,” and “z” majors?’ There is a dance that happens at this stage, and there is awareness that, these days, a college “fit” entails a lot more than “I like it here” (although that may still be the overriding factor in a student’s college selection). Students and families are starting to look long-term. What will my son/daughter get out of his/her education in the next four-five years? Families are looking at the value for cost in their son or daughter’s education. When you look at the long-term investment of education, you need to factor in so much more than room, board, tuition, and fees.
Here are a few questions to consider…
If a student is interested in study abroad, what are the available options and what cost should they expect and prepare for? DU happens to be fortunate enough to be able to offer their own program - the Cherrington Global Scholars program. CGS is unique to DU, and allows those junior and senior students with a 3.0 GPA (and in good standing with the University) the opportunity and affordability to study abroad at no additional cost other than what a family typically pays per quarter at DU. If you look at study abroad as a long-term, indirect cost, CGS can save you at least a few thousand dollars and can provide you with an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience in one the 150 programs available.
Is class size really that important? I think it is. Sure, you can get the same information in a larger class, but you cannot get the same student and faculty interaction and collaborative learning that a smaller class offers. Small class sizes allow for a social interface among students and faculty that can be lost in a crowded classroom.
What are some of the outside costs that I should be considering? Some questions to ponder: How many breaks do we need to prepare for? Will my son/daughter come home for Thanksgiving and then need to head back to school for finals, only to return home again for winter break? Will my student need a car? Is it better to keep my health care or should my student take advantage of the health care plan offered by the university? It seems as if the questions never end, even as students and their families are in that home stretch of choosing the “right” college or university.
Do we pay for each semester/quarter/term/year all at one time, or are there other payment options? This will vary from school to school. Payment plans can help make college more affordable and less stressful for families. Each school is different. At DU, for example, families can pay each quarter or there are 9 and 12-month payment plans through a third party vendor. This is where parents can be - shall we say - resourceful. Many who choose the payment plan option will put the payment on a credit card to build up “points.” Some families build up enough airline points to never have to pay airfare for their student to come home during seasonal breaks.
Is a dual degree program offered and how can this benefit my son/daughter? DU offers a dual degree program that allows students to receive both a bachelor and a master’s degree in five years. Typically, students that graduate college and continue on in a master’s program are looking at two additional years of education, usually at a higher cost. DU has a program where undergraduates can apply for their master’s program in their junior year. They will need to satisfy all of the graduate admission standards for the program, but once they are accepted, the student can begin graduate level coursework as an undergraduate. Students accepted into the program will get their fifth year’s tuition at the undergraduate rate, and any merit scholarship they have already been given by DU will extend into that fifth year as well. They will graduate in five years with two degrees, thus saving quite a bit of time and money.
Whew! And you thought all of your questions had been answered. Seniors, I wish you and your parents the very best as you make that ever-important college decision. It is all about the right “fit” for you. My dad once told me, “Education is a gift that your mother and I can give you that can never be taken away.” Make the most of your gift!
Jenn Paar, Midwest Regional Director