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How should my child go about selecting a college?

This is probably one of the biggest decisions you and your child will make together. Remember that your child could spend the next two to six years at this school. You'll want to know that your son or daughter will receive a good education and be happy there.

There is no perfect way to select a college. The key is to find a school that is right for your child. You may have dreamed that your child would go to Harvard, but what does he or she want? Start the process by talking to your child's guidance counselor about realistic choices. Your child's abilities and goals will narrow the list.

Then, once you narrow the list down to a half-dozen schools or so, it's a good idea to visit them. Be sure to sit in on a class or two and talk to both students and faculty. What do the students like most or least about the school? What credentials do the faculty members hold? Here are some other factors to help you decide which school may be best for your child:

  • Size: Big fish in a little pond, or little fish in a big pond?
  • Climate: Year-round heat wave, or winter wonderland?
  • Location: Bright lights big city, or over the river and through the woods?
  • Distance: Able to bring laundry home on the weekends, or visit only over long breaks?
  • Student-faculty ratio: One-on-one attention, or the ability to blend into the crowd?
  • Accommodations (room and board): All of the comforts of home, or all of the comforts of a four-star hotel?