Tips for Narrowing the College Search

College is a big commitment and might be more so today than ever before. Incoming college freshmen have heard the stories of recent college graduates searching for working opportunities, seen the Occupy Wall Street protestors marching against their student loan debt, and grown into legal working age in a recession.

When students decide to invest in a college education, they should put the effort in to know that it is the right one. Recently, the mother-daughter writing team Julie and Lindsey Mayfield shared their tips for students on how to narrow college search and find the best fit for you. Below I’ve expanded on Julie’s advice for college seekers:

  • Geography: After visiting a few college campuses, students should be better prepared to know what it is they demand from a campus. Also, students may feel the itch to get far away from their hometown or family when they’re going to college, but it isn’t always financially possible to explore out-of-state options. When students start looking at out-of-state schools, start looking for scholarships and other financial aid to help cover this more expensive decision.
  • Majors: If your student is already considering a major, visit the department to see if it’s a good fit. Also, when students visit a department they think is right for them in theory, they may find out that it isn’t everything they dreamed it to be. Make sure the college your freshman is interested in comes with multiple options for them to be happy and succeed should they change their major.
  • Money: As the search moves on, families start looking more closely at the price tag. When comparing schools look at the price of tuition, room and board, and spending money and the financial aid available. If your student is set on a school with a big price tag, take the time to help them understand the reality of loan repayment. A college degree should set students free, not burden them for the next 20 years. Share real stories of recent college grads dealing with their debt like in the NPR article, School Debt A Long-Term Burden For Many Graduates. Also, use a loan repayment calculator to show how long it will take to repay loans at the different schools like the one at

As you and your student take the journey to finding the right college, be honest with each other and talk about any second thoughts that each of your are having about colleges once you learn more about them. If students are reconsidering their career path or top choice of school, listen to them and discuss the possibility of shifting your top picks list. Transferring schools or programs is not only expensive, it usually adds more time to the students’ college experience. Be as prepared, honest, and inquisitive as possible during this important time.




“6 factors to narrow your college search,” by Juke and Lindsey Mayfield. 25 October 2011. US NEWS Education. Accessed on 31 October 2011.


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