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College Admissions: How To Keep From Choosing The Wrong College

Monday, April 07, 2014

 

It's nothing to laugh at--decision season is coming up and you don't want to choose the wrong college.

The "National Reply By Date" is just a few weeks away on May 1. Anxious seniors and their parents are scrambling, often confused as to how to make a decision among several colleges in a short amount of time.While a “gut feeling” based

on a campus information session and tour is one good factor to consider, there is other information that needs to be considered. Don’t jump before you look carefully. This is one of the most important decisions and largest financial investments, you will ever make. Here are some key things to review.

Beware of Student Gossip

The old adage “bad news travels faster than good news” is especially true with regard to colleges. Be wary of online sites that host bitter student reviews. Few happy students have the time or the inclination to go on and post a positive review. Also, take the gossip in your high school or neighborhood with a grain of salt when someone leaves a college. Look instead at the overall statistics; do not make a judgment based on one individual. For a great guide centered around hundreds of student surveys and interviews, I recommend The Insider's Guide to the Colleges by The Yale Daily News. It only reviews about 300 colleges and universities in the country, but it does a terrific job of giving insight into campus life, course rigor, professor access and the surrounding community.

Spend the Night

I highly recommend that students do an overnight visit at their top choice colleges before making a final decision. The admissions office at most smaller colleges will help facilitate this, but at larger institutions, you may need to network with friends and family to find an existing student to host you for the night. Go to classes on a Friday and then check out the “on campus” and “off campus” social scene. This real life experience will give you a valuable feel for the flavor of the student body and the quality of the classes and professors.

Majors and Courses

Some seniors will have a good idea of what they want to major in. If so, take a deeper dive into the courses offered, professor credentials, and internships or research opportunities. Remember that course catalogs are VERY deceiving. They usually contain every course taught in the last 5 years (or that may be taught in the next 5 years). It does not mean that those courses are taught every year. For a more accurate understanding of the classes that you will have to choose from in your major, call the department and ask for a course list for this year and next year. If you are a student who is undecided on a major, carefully consider the breadth of offerings at your potential colleges and make sure they line up with your interests.

Review the Data

There are some important statistics that parents and students should review before choosing a college. These are readily available on Web sites like www.collegeboard.com or www.collegedata.com. The first one that I look at is “students returning for sophomore year” - this is a key indicator of how happy students are at a college and the support they receive. If a college has below a 70% return rate, I get concerned. The next data point I suggest you review is the “4 year graduation rate”. While nationally this is quite low (many students take 5-6 years to graduate), you should know what the likelihood is that your costs will extend beyond 4 years. Another item that can be important to students who wish to pursue an advanced degree is “percent of students going on to graduate school”. The one published statistic that I find suspicious is “percent of students finding full-time employment within 12 months of graduation." Given the poor economy, I think the high numbers reported by many schools are hard to swallow. Lastly, families should investigate the economic health of a college, including the endowment fund and state of the physical campus. In 2010, approximately 150 colleges in the U.S. failed the US Department of Education’s test of financial stability.

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, college counseling and athletic recruiting services for students. www.collegeadvisorsonline.com

 

Related Slideshow: RI 4 Year Colleges & Universities with the Highest Student Debt

Seven in 10 college seniors (71%) who graduated last year had student loan debt, with an average of $29,400 per borrower, according to a new report released by the Institute for College Access and Success. According to the Institute’s Project on Student Debt, Rhode Island has the fifth highest student debt in the country, but what about the state's individual institutions? Check out the slides below to see the average debt graduates accrued at Rhode Island colleges and universities.

Note: All data is based on four-year or above institutions for students graduating in the 2011-2012 academic year. Johnson and Wales University and the Rhode Island School of Design are not included in the data below, because they did not report the average debt of their graduates.

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#7 Rhode Island College

Average Student Debt: $23,110

Percent of Graduates with Debt: 79%

Non-Federal Debt, Percent of Total Debt of Graduates: 11%

Bachelor's Degree Recipients: 1,307

Full-time Enrollment Fall 2011: 5,794

In-State Tuition and Fees: $7,268

Total Cost of Attendance: $18,964

Percent Pell Grant Recipients: 36%

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#6 Brown University

Average Student Debt: $23,521

Percent of Graduates with Debt: 37%

Non-Federal Debt, Percent of Total Debt of Graduates: 45%

Bachelor's Degree Recipients: 1,603

Full-time Enrollment Fall 2011: 6,114

In-State Tuition and Fees: $42, 230

Total Cost of Attendance: $56,150

Percent Pell Grant Recipients: 14%

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#5 Providence College

Average Student Debt: $26,832

Percent of Graduates with Debt: 70%

Non-Federal Debt, Percent of Total Debt of Graduates: 21%

Bachelor's Degree Recipients: 914

Full-time Enrollment Fall 2011: 3,804

In-State Tuition and Fees: $40,975

Total Cost of Attendance: $54,840

Percent Pell Grant Recipients: 16%

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#4 Univ. of Rhode Island

Average Student Debt: $30,387

Percent of Graduates with Debt: 77%

Non-Federal Debt, Percent of Total Debt of Graduates: 31%

Bachelor's Degree Recipients: 2,614

Full-time Enrollment Fall 2011: 11,672

In-State Tuition and Fees: $11,366

Total Cost of Attendance: $25,311

Percent Pell Grant Recipients: 24%

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#3 Roger Williams Univ.

Average Student Debt: $38,550

Percent of Graduates with Debt: 66%

Non-Federal Debt, Percent of Total Debt of Graduates: 39%

Bachelor's Degree Recipients: 872

Full-time Enrollment Fall 2011: 3,834

In-State Tuition and Fees: $30,908

Total Cost of Attendance: $47,568

Percent Pell Grant Recipients: N/A

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#2 Salve Regina Univ.

Average Student Debt: $39,996

Percent of Graduates with Debt: 80%

Non-Federal Debt, Percent of Total Debt of Graduates: 33%

Bachelor's Degree Recipients: 436

Full-time Enrollment Fall 2011: 1,904

In-State Tuition and Fees: $32,800

Total Cost of Attendance: $47,100

Percent Pell Grant Recipients: 24%

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#1 Bryant University

Average Student Debt: $44,580

Percent of Graduates with Debt: 88%

Non-Federal Debt, Percent of Total Debt of Graduates: 53%

Bachelor's Degree Recipients: 831

Full-time Enrollment Fall 2011: 3,211

In-State Tuition and Fees: $34,624

Total Cost of Attendance: $50,153

Percent Pell Grant Recipients: 17%

 
 

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