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Building a college shortlist

It’s finally time to pull out all those college mailers, sit down and make a college shortlist!

It’s a daunting task, but one that’s crucial for you and your student as you try to find the perfect college fit. By now your student probably has an idea of what areas of study they’re interested in and what size of school they’d like to attend. If you’ve kept an organized stack of college mailers and done some research online, creating a list of potential schools can be fun rather than stressful.

Here are some general categories you can use to build a long list of schools and refine it down to a shortlist. 

  1. Available degree programs: What does your student want to study? Which schools offer degree programs in that academic area? 
  2. Location: Does your student want to attend college in another state or closer to home? If they want to attend an out-of state public school, remember that out-of-state tuition levels will typically apply. Private nonprofit schools like Columbia College typically offer the same tuition rates to residents of all states, since they are not publicly-funded. 
  3. Size: What type of learning environment does your student prefer? Large lecture halls where they can blend into the crowd? A larger state school might be a good fit. Or do they prefer smaller class sizes with opportunity for one-on-one discussions with their professors and classmates? A smaller school like Columbia College may be best. 
  4. Cost: What is your budget for college? At first glance, public schools can seem cheaper than private schools, but bear in mind that many private schools offer substantial scholarships which could take the sticker price down to the same level or below that of public schools. For example, check out the scholarships offered by Columbia College, which include automatic, competitive and need-based awards. 
    Remember too that federal financial aid in the form of grants and loans may be available to help you meet the cost of your student’s education.  
  5. Campus: It’s always a good idea to visit as many campuses as possible, so that your student can decide if they are a good fit. Even if you can’t physically be on campus, many schools offer online virtual tours. For example, check out Columbia College’s virtual tour. 

Next steps

By this time, you should have whittled down your list to between 3-10 potential schools. It’s now just a case of supporting your student and helping them decide where they’ll spend the next few years of their life!  


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