By now, I’ve worked with hundreds of young people in helping them get to the next step. Whether it was helping them find the right job or internship, or get in to the right college, I feel like I’ve learned a lot in my 15+ years of doing this.
But it was in the spring of 2015, as my youngest child received her remaining answers from her colleges, and in the following months of decision-making, that I learned some key things for the first time. My daughter is a good student. We were, and still are, very proud of her. She had the total package – grades, leadership, service, class rank, depth in extracurriculars.
What did I learn: Lots of girls have all this!
- You can find plenty of press, research and statistics that tell you that young women mature faster, tend to be better time managers, and in general have a more compelling ‘total application’ than young men. Plus there are more of them applying to college. Since nearly every school aims for a 50/50 gender balance, this puts our young women at a disadvantage. I had no idea how much. (By the way this is just the opposite for a woman applying to a STEM field – more on that later).
I also learned: Be sure to put in enough safety schools, and schools where you have good reason to believe you’ll get merit or financial aid.
- We cut our list of schools too narrowly. My daughter was very clear on where she did and did not want to go to college. If she didn’t want to go somewhere, we took it off the list. So we only applied to 8 schools. In the end, she got in to nearly all of them, but the scholarships were disappointing – nowhere near what my older boys had received – and they did not have as strong an application as my daughter did!
Finally, I learned that every college website has a net price calculator.
- This is a tool that is tailored to each college’s acceptance and financial aid philosophies. By plugging in key information about your teen’s grades and resume, and your own financial picture, you can get an excellent idea of A.) Whether your son/daughter will get in to that school, and B.) How much aid they can expect to receive. This is a highly accurate indicator, and few people think to use it. Read more about the NPC here.
In the end, my greatest lesson was this. In nearly all cases, your child will go where they were meant to go. My daughter didn’t get as much aid as we would have liked, and she will face more loans than my boys. Yet after her first semester, she feels challenged and happy, and cannot imagine being anywhere else.