Finding the Right University for Your Child

A GCU student standing on campus

Not all universities are created equal. Each offers unique qualities, benefits and college experiences that may appeal to some high school students – and not others. These tips can help you and your student navigate the process of finding the right university to successfully arrive at a decision (that your child made, of course).

Prioritize What is Most Important

Finding the right university depends not only on educational and professional goals, but also personal interests and even personality. To determine the “right match,” your student should consider academic, job placement and social opportunities, along with location, school size, support services and cost.

The following list of questions can help guide this process. After your child responds to each question, have them rate the importance of each. Then with your support, your student can search for a university that meets the top requirements.

  • What type of studies, major or career field are you most interested in?
  • Would you feel most comfortable at a large or small university?
  • What types of social activities and organizations can you imagine yourself joining? (e.g. athletic teams, academic organizations, community service, etc.)
  • How do you imagine your college experience to be like? What type of campus culture can you be yourself in?
  • Are there outlets for you to pursue your passions?
  • Does the university offer challenges to help you grow in various areas?

Accommodate for Your Child’s Personality

Approach the college search by first taking a secondary role to let your child take the lead in the college search. It is important for your child to take ownership of this process, which means the search process may deviate from how you would prefer.

Maybe your child is eager to visit campuses. Maybe he or she would rather rely on brochures and social media to learn about the college. Is your child better at decision-making under pressure? Perhaps junior year is too soon for them to start thinking about college. Take on the role of a guide to make sure your child is on track without too much control. Then step in when the experience becomes too overwhelming or stressful.

Trust the Gut

Allow your student to experience first impressions without pressure and your input. Your student will have a natural reaction to information, a campus visit or a meeting with a counselor. Sometimes this reaction is explicit excitement or dislike – or it may be complete indifference. Once initial reactions settle in, you and your child can come together to discuss the positives and negatives and reach a decision of yes or no. Try to avoid influencing the decision too strongly though; where you child spends the next four years should rest in their hands.

Be Realistic and Prepare

To avoid too much disappointment, honestly communicate any limitations upfront in the college search process. These can be financial limitations because of high tuition and fees, for example.

Then encourage your student to find options. Even if their first choice is the perfect fit, an acceptance letter is not always guaranteed. Having to follow restrictions or dealing with rejection can wear on your child’s experience. Your positive attitude will help your child keep their head up, move on and continue looking. Remember, not getting accepted is not failure. Even the most qualified students get denied for reasons outside of their control. Schools may be looking for prospective students with different skills, but that does not mean these skills are necessarily better.

Stay Connected with Admissions Counselors

Once your student has compiled a list of colleges, the next step is to contact admissions counselors for more information and to start the application process. An admissions counselor can also provide more details about campus visits and tours, financial aid, scholarship opportunities and more. Open and regular communication can also help ensure your student stays on track and meets all deadlines.

Grand Canyon University always welcomes students and parents to visit campus, especially during our Preview GCU event. We also invite students who qualify to attend Discover GCU, our two-day, overnight campus event where students learn firsthand what it is like to be a Lope. Connect with an admissions counselor for more information by filling out the Request More Information form at the top of the page.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.

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