We all know that the reason kids head off to college is to get a great education.
(Although I’d argue that the experience has just as much to do with it, but that’s a different post.)
When you’re talking about the college search and finding the very best match for your teen, it’s important to dig in to determining the very best academic environment for her, too.
First, you may want to check out my recent posts on the same college search topic:
So now, get that dinner prepared and get ready for some conversation tonight about what matters to your teen on the scholarly side of finding a great college match.
Majors + Courses
Some students know exactly which type of major and degree they’re going to pursue right from the start. Others really don’t, and that’s perfectly OK.
Talk to your teenager about what she sees herself doing in the future. Her answers might be broad, like “I’d like to work with children,” or more specific, like “I want to be a veterinarian.”
Either way, she should know that there’s flexibility with this when choosing colleges. This is just a jumping-off point.
If your teen has some pretty clear interests or specialties she’d like to explore, she should consider them when thinking about the college that’s right for her. There’s a lot of excellent information on College Board’s BigFuture website, where she can learn about college majors and careers that they can lead to. It’ll also list colleges that offer those majors.
But remember that a major is certainly not something that students need to have figured out before going to college. Did you really know what career you wanted to get into when you were a high school senior? You may have, but more often than not students will change majors at least once during the college years.
This is a time for exposure to new ideas and exploring new interests. Your teen will learn what really excites her if she remains flexible those first couple of years at college, and she can move forward knowing she’s found something she’ll be passionate about.
Ideally, she should look for colleges that fit her interests and that have the flexibility to switch fields if her interests change.
It’s important for your teen to reflect on her personal learning style to determine whether small or large classes appeal most to her. There are pros and cons to each, and every student has their own preference.
Larger campuses usually have a broader range of programs and courses. (Nautical archaeology, anyone?) These campuses have more students, and so it also means that at least the introductory classes will be pretty sizable. These are typically lecture-format. It’s tougher to get to know the professor in these classes. And since there are so many students, attendance is less likely to count toward a grade.
Smaller classes are more intimate and discussion-based with lots of student interaction. Students receive much more personal attention from the professor, and they might be graded on participation, attendance and staying on top of homework.
Many colleges have a mix of class sizes. This may not be a make-or-break factor in deciding which schools are best, but it’s detail that may really matter to many students.
The process of figuring out best-fit colleges is intense, but for students with learning differences it can be even tougher.
If your teen needs extra academic support, she should make sure that there are programs in place to help in school. Support services include things like reduced course load, extra tutoring support, on-campus learning specialists, weekly meetings with a counselor and specialty workshops.
All U.S. colleges are required to help accommodate students with different needs. Some colleges offer a high level of structure and support. Some don’t offer as much.
Talk with your teen about how much support would be beneficial to her so that the research she does later on includes this really important detail.
These are great conversations to have at dinner with your teenager. I promise you’ll learn things you may not have known about her.
In addition to being a great exercise for planning for the future, it’s a great time for parent-and-teen connection!
Download The College Fit Toolkit workbook for your teen. It’ll take her through questions to help uncover personal preferences prior to diving into the college search.
Stay tuned for Step 4 next week as we dig deeper into helping your teenager with other aspects of the college search.
Let’s continue the conversation! Leave a comment below.