How to help your student choose a college: A parent checklist

A student gazes up at a library shelf of books.

Once your student has been admitted to colleges, they might be floundering on how to choose one. While some students may have a clear first choice, others might feel undecided and unsure of how to make sure they’re picking the right school. And, there can be a lot of factors that go into making a decision, so laying them all out and helping your student make an informed choice can fall to you. Here’s an easy checklist to help you get that conversation started.

#1. Location

Where does your student want to live for the next four years? Near mountains? Somewhere with all four seasons? Somewhere warmer or cooler? Larger city setting, small-town charm, or somewhere in between? The setting of the college will be a part of their life as much as the university itself.

#2. Distance from home

Does your student want to drive home on weekends or holidays? Are they comfortable being a plane ride away? Make sure they are ready to consider the logistics — and price tag— around each choice.

#3. Academic options

Did your student get accepted into their major of choice, or are they hoping for some options at their institution? Remind them that academics need to be a piece of this decision — especially when so many other factors are at play.

#4. Housing options

Often one of the biggest concerns, housing is nothing to leave off your student’s initial pro-con list. They’ve likely explored the housing options available at their admitted colleges, but help them narrow it down: are they comfortable in a traditional dorm/roommate situation, or are there reasons they’ll need to make their living situation and preferences the main priority in their college choice?

#5. Size of college

Is your student comfortable with a larger university setting that might mean a few larger classes and more area to cover as they move around campus? Would they prefer a smaller campus that’s more cozy? Remind them there are pros and cons to both.

#6. Have they been there in person yet?

While visiting every college your student has interest in might not be possible, it’s often the best way to get a genuine feel for the space, the community, and more. If you have visited some campuses in person, which just felt … right? Which didn’t? And, if you won’t get a chance to visit, will the virtual tour suffice?

Still looking for some tips?

Check out our other parent blogs, written with you in mind.


Prairie Smallwood

Prairie Smallwood is a writer and content creator for the Office of Admissions at Colorado State University. She is passionate about education and exploration, and knows that going to college can be both an adventure and an overwhelming experience. She aims to create content that helps students through that journey — the wonderful, the scary, and everything in between.