Narrowing the Field

Well, you have navigated through Step 1 and Step 2 in your college decision process with your son/daughter.  You’ve got a pile of mail and a ton of emails and you can’t believe there will be an end in sight.  Your mailperson is giving you a hardy handshake from having to carry all those parcels.  You realize why college is so expensive if they send out all these marketing materials to prospective college students across the nation.

Are You Ready?

Talk with your son/daughter.  Our kids are busy.  This whole process was as overwhelming for them as it was for us.  We talked a lot. A LOT.  When it came time to start whittling down the piles and pile around our house, we set up a time with each of them.  As packets and emails were arriving I kept a running list of the colleges that had contacted each of our sons.  Here is an example:Blank College List-page-001

How did this help?  When we sat down with our sons, we did it separately.  Our sons are twins, but they are their own individuals.  If you missed my blog post about Raising Twins, check it out.  I let them know that we would need at least two hours.  We came prepared.  We had our list from above, a laptop and an index file folder.  Our goal was to whittle the list and pile down from 145 to 25.  Most of you probably had heart palpitations. Down to 25?  That still seems like a lot.  It is.  It is also a realistic number to really start looking in-depth to a college.   We made a deal with our sons, if they gave us this time, I would notify the colleges that they were no longer interested.  This is why we kept the list and noted the email address of whom to contact.

Part 1. Talk again.  Before we tackled the pile, we really talked about whether or not this was still something they wanted to go forward with.  College is a huge step.  We didn’t want them to feel pressure to go.  We again, talked openly and honestly about all aspects of college and all the options out there.  Once they said yes, we then talked about what they were looking for in a college.  Each son had different answers.

  • Degree Availability.  This was a long discussion based on what they liked to do, what interested them, things they had learned from discussions at school and at college sessions.
  • Size of School.  This is why we really recommend that you visit schools of all shapes and sizes if you can.  It was a huge factor for our sons.
  • Location.  Big city, rural, small community, West Coast, East Coast, South, Mid-West, all of these things played a role for our sons.
  • Opportunities/Interaction:  What did the college offer once you were there and after you graduate?  Do they have good clubs that interest your child?  Are there areas that while not the main focus or degree, play a huge role in your child’s life and do they have that (ie, jazz band, football, Anime club, photography club….).
  • Political Affiliation.  Yes, there is a list that indicates political tendencies of many colleges.  No, they all aren’t liberal.  While this was not a big part of the decision, it did help whittle the pile a little.  Our sons did not was a college that was overly political either way.  Most colleges are political hot beds, they just wanted to make sure that wasn’t a huge part of the curriculum influence.  They wanted college for college sake.

Part 2.  We tackled each pile methodically.  This is what it looked like for Josh: small to mid-sized large college, neuroscience/psych degree, not in the South, not overly right-wing, not overly religious-based and clubs for which he had an interest.  I would pull out a packet, he would look up information on laptop and we would see if the college fit.  If it didn’t it went into the trash pile and was marked off the list after I noted the contact email if we didn’t have one already.  If we only received an email, we pulled up their information and did the same. We completed our first run through.

Part 3.  We counted the results.  We got down to 50ish.  We took a break.   Of a few days. Then we tackled the list again, including any new colleges that may have come in.  We got down to 20.   When we got to this point we started to note application costs and deadlines so we knew, both in dates and number of colleges, where we needed to get to in the end.   Each college of the 20 had a tab in the file folder.  All paperwork, including copies of emails, were placed in their tab.

Part 4.  The “Thank You” email.   Here is an example of the decline email that was sent:  We did a bulk email to the colleges not chosen listed as bcc so that no one could see others email addresses.  Almost all colleges responded back with a “thank you for letting us know” or a “can we further interest you by….” email.  The colleges that did not respond just confirmed for us that it wasn’t a college to choose for them.  Do you have to do an email like we did? No, but it really decreased the amount of mail and email after that so that our sons could focus on the pile in their folders or any new ones that came in.

College Interest Decline Letter-page-001
College Interest Decline Sample Letter

Part 5.  We gave them a week.  We stepped away and gave them space.  They needed to think about where they wanted to apply and only they could decide this.  If they had questions, we answered them.  We recommended they pick 8 colleges total each.  Once or two for-sure, one reach and the rest pretty goods.

While this was happening, we were helping them also collect what they would need when it came time to apply.  Transcripts, letters of recommendations and a up-to-date resume listing their jobs, volunteer experiences, clubs, honors awards, etc.  Make sure you have these in original, pdf and jpg versions.  These things we read would make completing those applications easier once they were ready to go.  It did.

Part 6.  We met again.  We pulled out a college and discussed their decision.  Yes and No.  I think this was one of the first times our sons really had a hard decision to make.  Financially, we couldn’t afford to have them to apply to every one of the top 20.  Do the math.  That would be 40 colleges!  A couple of their choices had waived the application fee and that helped, but it was not part of the ultimate decision. Could they picture themselves at this college for a minimum of four years? That was the final question.

Part 7.  Decisions were made. 8 colleges. Two sons and only a couple were the same college.

Now we rested for a week…..and began Step 4.  Application Time!

See you next week for the next installment in the series peeps!  Again, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

You will survive this. We did.  And my hair dresser loves all the gray she gets to hide for me too!


Coming Soon! Completing the Application

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