Post-secondary planning is never an easy task, but when you add the additional layer of being a first-generation college student, things seem to become a bit more challenging. At 16 and 17 years old, students are asked to plan to the direction of the rest of their lives. While this decision can be undone later, a lot of students do not see it that way. Students want to find the right fit for them from the beginning of their college career, so whether that is a trade program, a 2-year college, 4-year college, or enter the workforce – either way, students go into senior year with a plan. For many Verbum Dei students, they are the first in their family to apply for college, and as a college counselor, it is my duty to help students navigate through the process of finding the best fir for them.
When thinking about fit, for many, it goes beyond their GPA and test scores. Many students consider the schools’ reputations, location, academic programs, etc. For many Verb students, however, the number 1 factor is financial fit. The issue with using financial fit as the determining factor is that most financial aid packages are not available until March or April and students need to commit a college or university by May 1st. A good way to estimate college cost is by looking at cost of attendance, scholarship programs, financial aid from the institution, and plugging the students’ information into the Net Price Calculator tool, linked here: https://collegecost.ed.gov/net-price So, what can we do on our end to support students in identifying the other aspects of a best fit college in the meantime? I will list them below:
- Consider all the factors connecting students to the best fit for them outside of financial fit (i.e. academic fit, location, Verbum Dei success data, and social emotional fit)
- Meet with students regularly and loop in their parents to chat about why certain schools are on their list and others are not
- Have a healthy mix of reach, match, and safety colleges/universities on their list.
- Use resources available to the students to learn as much as possible about a potential college/ university (i.e. Net Price Calculator, Verbum Dei Alumni, College Fly-in Programs, Summer Programs, and College/University Repetitive Visits)
- Making sure the student is comfortable with all the decisions they are making about their futures
Finding the best fit can be a challenging process, but the reward is so great knowing that students are in a place where they feel comfortable living and learning which leads to better retention rates and student stress levels. Here is a video on what the reward feels like, enjoy!