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What Teens Should Know About Applying to College

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Choosing a college is a major decision for a teen. There are so many factors involved that it can be overwhelming. Sometimes the best solution is to try to simplify the process so that it’s not so difficult to come to a decision. Here are five things your teen will need to know during the process of deciding where to apply to college.

Location Matters

While an accredited degree is the same no matter where it’s earned, there are nevertheless some differences in the type of education a student receives, based on the location of the school. For example, a veterinary school in Chicago might be geared more towards pet medicine while one at Texas A&M focuses mostly on farm animals. Graduates of both institutions are veterinarians, but the type of practice they want to do will determine which school works better for them. Let your teen’s career goals drive application choices.

Being Different is Good

Top schools receive thousands of applications each year, with few differences from one to the next. Everybody has good grades, good test scores, and many of the same honors and extracurricular activities. To have a good chance at admission, your teen needs to report the things that make him or her different. Students should talk about any unusual hobbies, unique community activities, or entrepreneurial activities that will stand out in comparison to everybody else. This kind of information is helpful on scholarship applications, too!

More is Better

When it comes to deciding how many applications to submit, more is usually better. Make sure your teen understands that this philosophy isn’t just about having a Plan B. It’s also about the possibility that new information emerges after the application deadline has passed. What if your teen’s chosen school suddenly discontinues the program your teen wanted or eliminates an appealing extracurricular event? A lot can happen in a few months, and students who have other options won’t get cornered.

Be Realistic

Who wouldn’t want to matriculate for four years at an oceanfront university, or at the foothills of the snowcapped Rocky Mountains? Those options sound great on paper, but when the time comes to move hundreds of miles from home and spend a lot more money, many teens realize that maybe something a little more practical would have been better. Remember that the college your teen chooses will be a home away from home for four years. If being close to family, friends, and hometown is important to your teen, that should be a factor in the college application process.

Focus on Programs First

Along that same line, it’s important to choose a college based on a degree program, not a brochure, a sports team, or a famous alum. Many programs are found at almost every university, but some colleges carry those curricula without really being committed to them. A good clue is the number of instructors assigned to a major, how much classroom and office space are devoted to it, and where its graduates have gone. If the program’s credentials are questionable, it doesn’t matter how good the overall university is. The best programs will turn out the graduates who get the best jobs.

Choosing a college is a very exciting process. Your teen has hundreds of options, so you need something to help clear the clutter and narrow down the choices to a manageable number. Then your teen can decide based on what’s best in the long run.

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