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Adventures in the College Search...Part 1


I am going a bit off the reservation with this week’s article.  If you have been paying attention, you know our older son is in the midst of college selection process.  He started the process early this year and I think he is closing in on a decision.  Or, at least narrowing it down quite a bit.  I figured I would share what I have learned as a parent who graduated from college a million years ago.

As some background, for the last few years he was planning to go to film school.  This all changed last winter when he had to do a film, from start to finish, for a class.  He did not enjoy the entire process.    Suddenly, he was interested in being a Physician Assistant (PA).  Now, he is not our science kid.  That is our younger son.  The older one’s strengths fall into areas such as communication. 

So, the first couple of college visits were to schools that had combined PA programs (finish in 5 years instead of 6).  Before I forget, his criteria for schools were to be at least two hours from home, in a big city, and not too big of a school.  With that in mind, our first visit was to a small town on Lake Erie where it was snowing in mid-April.  After that visit he quickly learned to do a bit more research on the schools before setting up a visit.

At the first school the admissions counselor spent the whole time talking about the cost of school and gave little insight into the PA program besides their acceptance rate.Fortunately, at our next school the counselor actually talked with him about his interests, classes, test scores and more.  She mentioned he might like something like their Sports Marketing program.Suddenly, the interest shifted from PA to marketing, which I think is a better fit.

I won’t bore you with every visit, but will share some highlights:

  • Know that so much happens behind the scenes.  Schools email students directly and students can research just about anything on a school on the web.  It almost feels as though if you physically visit a campus you are serious about that school.  Hot tip – If you are interested in a school and want to visit, let the school know you are coming as they use visits as part of their consideration process.
  • After a few visits, every school starts looking the same.  A dorm is a dorm is a dorm.  Although many have state-of-the-art cafeterias now.
  • The student giving the tour and the counselor you meet with are difference makers, at least in my humble opinion.  His favorite school now went from the bottom of the list to the top because the student guide was able to give great insight into their school’s marketing program.
  • The bulk of colleges are not meeting their enrollment goals, especially smaller liberal arts schools.  This is definitely in an applicant’s favor when competing for scholarships.
  • Private schools are rather liberal with their scholarship awards.  Now, my son’s GPA is decent and he has good ACT scores (thanks to his mother’s genes) so that helps.  Again, refer to my previous point about schools being competitive for students as they are not hitting enrollment numbers. 

Again, he is at the point where he has it narrowed down to a finalist.  Unfortunately for him, his mean father is wanting to visit the school again to gain a bit more insight.  Some of the things I am looking for are:

  • Graduation and employment rates for students within his specific major.
  • How the school makes sure he stays on track.
  • Internship information for his major.  Back in my day (million years ago), the internships I did made the difference to when I had to get a job after graduation.  Real world experience and all that.
  • How the program adjusts to a quickly changing world that is marketing. 
  • Meet with a professor or two from the program.

If you have any other tips of things I should be asking about, please let me know.  Because I am the world’s meanest father and a grumpy old man, I could care less about the Greek system at the school or how the kids can head downtown for their night life.  In the meantime, stay tuned for a final decision.  Now, I need to go and yell at some kids to get off my lawn!