This article is a part of a series on how I go about obtaining the assessment information needed to do a comprehensive search, which in turn produces a well-matched college list. First, I described what in general defines a good college and then I introduced the first of the 7 C’s: Competition and Completion. Next, I reviewed assessment issues related to Costs and Curriculum. To finish up, I now share with you how I evaluate Community, Comforts and Connections.
The 5TH C – COMMUNITY (campus and environs)
At this point, I ask parents about their strong preferences (what’s a deal breaker?) Do parents have geographic preferences, must the college have proximity to an airport with direct flights, what about campus safety and so on.
With students I glean a lot more actual college factor information:
1) Do you prefer urban, suburban or rural college settings?
2) What are your climate preferences?
3) Is there a region you prefer and what’s the order of preference if there are multiple areas of the country where you would consider attending college?
4) If urban, are you looking at an enclosed residential experience or one that blends into the surrounding city?
5) How important is it to be close to the nearest airport? For example, BU and Bucknell are both fine universities in the Northeast; Boston has easy access to the airport, but it takes three hours to get to the nearest international airport from Bucknell.
6) Is your family well-traveled and would you consider a school abroad?
7) How important is the diversity factor? There is a difference between embracing differences and tolerating them. What are your socio-political views—leanings?
8) What schools have you visited? Which ones have you liked and why?
The 6TH C – COMFORTS (housing)
For the 6th C – COMFORTS I am asking both the parents and the students to tell me more about health conditions, housing and dining options.
1) Do you have any pre-existing health conditions, e.g., serious food allergies?
2) Is it difficult for you to leave your comfort zone?
3) Have you ever been homesick? If yes, do you get over it quickly or are you still homesick after a stretch of time has passed?
4) From the parental perspective, does your student exhibit any anxiety about leaving home?
5) Do they have experience living and sharing space with others outside the family unit?
6) How important is guaranteed housing for at least the freshman year?
7)Do you want safe and sober housing to be an option?
8) How do you feel about coed housing? What about alternating gender floors?
The 7TH C – CONNECTIONS (alumni relationships)
Here I am asking families these kinds of questions:
1) What are their college legacy connections?
2) Do they have a history of giving to an alma mater?
3) Do they help alma mater in other ways? For example, do they interview for their alma mater?
At this stage, as with Costs, I tend to educate and inform as much as ask questions; it is important for families to consider what a good college should do for its students during their years on campus, as well as after graduation.
For those of you who have been following this three part series about what defines a good college and what factors to consider developing a list of colleges to apply to, I am certain I have offered you plenty of food for thought. I also hope you now understand how a knowledgeable, caring and experienced college advisor goes about assessing a student and their family’s needs and interests before providing a well-matched college list balanced by the probability of admission.