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College Decision Guide: Questions to Ask Your Student as They Decide What’s Next

Post by
Drew Goltermann
Every student and situation is unique - but through our experience we've found (and curated for you here) some questions that can help you in a conversation with your student to make a decision on what to do after graduation.
College Decision Guide: Questions to Ask Your Student as They Decide What’s Next

It’s College Decision Season! And with the joy of those big envelopes also comes the challenge of guiding students as they make some of the most important decisions of their young lives. 

We’re here to help. Keep in mind that while every student and situation is different, these questions can help your students and families take charge of their decision making with your guidance. 

Tip 1: Use Data to Triangulate the Student’s Best Fit

Help your student consider the best-fit along these three factors by asking these questions. Make sure they’ve got the data handy and be ready to help them interpret those confusing aid package letters!

Financial Fit - finding a financial fit is about making an investment while knowing the risk involved

  • What is your net cost of attendance going to be? Your out-of-pocket cost?
  • How much would you/your family need to contribute outside of your EFC? 
  • Was work-study a part of the offer, and would you be able to do work study?
  • Is your family able to take on a ParentPlus Loan and do they know the risks?
  • What is the average salary (for your major) for graduates here? 
  • How long will it take you to pay off your debt at that salary?

??Need some resources? Check out the College Scorecard and this Simple Loan Calculator, or use your Overgrad account

Academic Fit - finding an academic fit is about meeting your student’s goals & needs 

  • What is the graduation rate for students of similar background at this college?
  • What does this tell you about the types of support and services, the community that exists for students like you?
  • Does this school offer the major(s) and type of degree that you need for your long-term career pathway?
  • Are the course types and class requirements (class size, style) aligned to your learning style and preferences?

??Not sure where you can find this info? Check out the school’s website or the NCES College Navigator, or use Overgrad’s college search

Culture Fit - finding a culture fit is about meeting your student’s social and community needs

  • Have you visited campus? Looked at CampusReels? Social media?
  • What and how many groups, organizations or communities exist for students like you (cultural, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, etc)?
  • What does the school do to purposefully include students like you?
  • Is the school close / far enough from home? What will that mean for you?

?How can you learn more? Talk with a peer who attends, visit the school’s website, or best of all check out the campus in person if you can

Tip 2: Some Fit Factors Live Outside the Data

As important as the data is, making this decision is also going to have feelings associated with it.

  • Would you regret not taking this chance? 
  • What would you gain by going here? What would you be giving up by going here? Are you ok with that tradeoff? 
  • Is this really what you want or is it what everyone else says you should do?

Tip 3: Have Your Student Ask Their People

Sometimes your student can get so bogged down in their decision that they need a little help. If they’re getting stuck, and after they’ve thought this through, their loved ones might be good mirrors.

  • Have you asked anyone in your family what they think? Do they agree or disagree with your thinking?
  • Close friends? Mentors? Someone else you trust?

Tip 4: Connect With the School About Your Financial Aid Package

Maybe your student’s dream school is a perfect fit for every other reason except that the aid package they offered isn’t quite there. Coach your student on how to connect with the Admissions or Financial Aid office to understand their aid package and potentially get a better package. 

  • Does the school have a financial aid appeal form? What is their appeal process?
  • Has your family’s financial situation changed over the past two years (which means your FAFSA might be outdated to your current situation)?
  • How much more aid would you need to make it work?
  • Do you have a better aid package elsewhere?
  • Encourage your student to reach out and schedule a phone call to outline their situation with the admissions or aid office to fully explain what their situation is and ask how the school might help.

Remember in all this that making a decision can be an emotional experience - both exciting and nerve-wracking - and the best decision for your student is one that they make and are committed to. 

Do you have other questions or best practices that help you in these conversations with your students? Let us know in the comments!

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