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College Perimeters?

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Besides financial (of course), what perimaters do/did you have in mind for your child when looking at colleges?


Obviously cost is going to be the major factor.  But what else?  Distance from home?  Campus size?  Programs?  Extra curriculars?


What were the main things YOU are/were looking for (or weren't looking for)?  Does/did your child share the same ideas?  

Edited by rutamattatt
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My 8th grader has already toured many campuses on both coasts and in Canada, and he consistently wants


- good food courts, strong campus-wide WiFi, little to no sports emphasis, great campus libraries

- single dorm room or ability to stay off campus.

- in the city, preferably walkable from campus to places like Target, CVS, grocers (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods)

- general feeling of safety

- medium to big campus, preferably with covered walkways for bad weather (rain or too sunny).

- fountains and ponds, low priority but nice to have.


What I want

- medical centers and/or teaching hospitals. I used the on-site hospital as an undergrad for medical needs and vision therapy. A few friends were hospitalized and had surgery as an undergrad due to unforeseen medical situations. My kids do think having medical facilities on campus is a good to have. They have seen someone died of a heart attack at a neighborhood park.

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If the student knows what they want to study, or possibly study, that can be a helpful limiting factor. For my first daughter, she wanted to study Turkish. That cut the options way down. For my second daughter, it was engineering and Chinese that needed to be available.


For us, cost was the next limiting factor, especially for my second daughter, who didn't have the GI Bill, like #1 did, but had the stats to earn significant merit scholarships. So, we looked for schools with those scholarships.


The second daughter also had an interest in athletics, so that was a minor concern. In the end, she chose a school with an active running club, rather than running (or skiing, her other interest) in the official school program. But she knew she wanted some sort of athletic option available.

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I didn't put any parameters (other than it was within our family's budget if we were paying) on the college search.  There are certain things that I think are better options for each child, but I did not limit any choices based upon my preferences.  


I prefered my children go to a school with adequate on-campus housing, but that is somewhat location specific.  DD was looking at European schools which have no on-campus housing, and I would have been fine with that.  I would have had concerns about a large state university without adequate housing, especially for freshman.


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Our only limitation was cost.


We also wanted them to find a school they'd enjoy being at for all four years since my family considers that one of the fun aspects of college.  


Then we wanted low Greek as we're not Fraternity lovers.


But our only limitation was cost.  They got to choose otherwise.  


I suppose we really discouraged UVA considering we are VT alumni.   :lol:  We tried to encourage VT with our oldest, but soon wised up to the idea that their college should be their choice, not ours - within financial constraints anyway.  No regrets.

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Because cost was the primary issue, we encouraged our children to live at home through college. There are many colleges in commuting distance here so they had a choice of several schools. Our older daughters were on board with this and very pleased to graduate without any debt. Right now, our 19yo is going to the CC and living at home and our 17yo is only looking at colleges in the area.


It's not that we wouldn't allow them to go away...but they have all felt that there was plenty here to choose from.

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DS's priorities, in order of importance, were: (1) highly ranked (preferably top 10) department in his major, (2) highly ranked (preferably top 5) Div1 program in his sport, and (3) availability of some unusual foreign languages he was interested in. Other criteria that are important to many students (large/small, public/private, urban/rural, near/far, big uni/LAC, etc.) had to take a back seat to those three. That narrowed the field to 4 or 5 schools, only two of which met all three criteria perfectly. One of those two, which also happened to be his first choice in terms of social and academic fit, offered him a full tuition scholarship, so that was that. 


ETA: Oops, I just realized you were asking about the parent's priorities, not the student's. I didn't actually put any restrictions on DS, other than we needed to be able to afford it. Before he got really serious about his sport, I had thought he might be more inclined towards an LAC, and I would have preferred he be closer to home, but neither of those things were possible once athletics were factored in.


Edited by Corraleno
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My parameters are mostly money related.  We do not have an unlimited budget.


That said, I have a  quite academic kid interested in music programs.  I'd much prefer he goes somewhere that is not just a music conservatory and is at least a reasonably good academic fit for him.  I think he will be much happier with the peer group and netwoking he can do someplace like that.  Not to mention, double majoring is an option and switching major is an option.    But he can apply and audition at a bunch of places and at the end of the day it will probably be a money thing.


He wants to go to a coast preferably large city.  We live in the middle of urban area of fairly large size (#16 in the US), so everything smaller than our city is small to him.  :huh:   Hoping to turn him on that because there are many great options that aren't urban or on a coast.  I think much of what he says he wants would be cost prohibitive but we'll see.  Feel free to throw suggestions my way.  :lol:

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Money, does the school have good merit aid. 

Smaller school for small classes.

Good disability support services.

Ability to successfully study to divergent interests. (some schools make this easy, others do not)

Not a greek heavy campus.

Ability to participate in music and theatre opportunities without being in that department. 

In general, active advisement for students to help keep them on track to graduate in time. Some schools are very involved in this.

Single rooms available.

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I didn't set parameters outside of my financial contribution for my kids. They set all the others.


Each had their own set of parameters based on:

majors/program quality


school size

dorm options

community size/type


I don't think that parents should set any of those parameters though. A college student is an adult. The only thing I put limits on was how much I could pay. The education they wanted, where they wanted to get it, etc was their choice. I was happy that one of my kids stayed close to home and the other is just 3 hours away (still fairly close). I think they both chose colleges that were a good fit for them and they are both thriving in the environment they chose. 


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Perhaps because we can only afford to pay a portion of college, I don’t set any parameters other than offering that portion. I figure that if my kids are adult enough to go to college then they are adult enough to choose a good one. I only have one in college so far though and he does live at home to help with finances and other logistics. But it has been his choice to avail himself of that.



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