May 1st is the deadline for college decisions and therefore the stress is growing across the nation as students determine with some helpful guidance of their parents the right college for them to choose.

We try to highlight the best advice and to put it into context so you can reduce some of the difficulty and angst in your student’s college decision. According to an article in the Washington Post, there are three key factors to consider.

“1. Look under the hood of the academic programs. When touring campuses for the first time, prospective students and their parents tend to focus on the bells and whistles that colleges emphasize: the fancy dorms, climbing walls, and technology-filled classrooms.

2. Investigate ways to learn outside the classroom. Broadly defined as “experiential learning,” opportunities such as internships, research with faculty members, service learning in the field, and study abroad help students translate classroom learning to the real world and make a difference in getting a job after graduation. Not all colleges offer a range of experiential learning opportunities.

3. Don’t forget about financial aid. By the time high school seniors have reached this point in the college search, they often have their hearts set on a particular campus. Yet they don’t know how much they’ll pay for college until the financial-aid offer arrives, sometimes giving them only a few weeks to compare packages and make a decision.”

These are excellent tips. College Parents of America also suggest that college-bound families carefully evaluate their award letters.   Award letters contain a road map for how your student and family can afford the college they choose.  The letter typically includes the scholarships, grants, and loans required to pay for the cost of attendance.  Read these letters carefully and consider not just the first year award but the total four-year financial commitment the school is making to your family.

Lastly – even though a decision is made on May 1st, it is still possible for your student to change their mind.  For a college or university to change their financial aid package or for something to influence your final decision before enrollment.  Be prepared for open and honest discussions with your student.  Most of all, remind them that are more than where they choose to attend college.