Madison, Wis. (June 29, 2018) – For more than twenty-five years—directly as a coach and admissions counselor, and in recent years more indirectly as an administrator and now as a college president--I’ve been helping students and families through the college decision-making process.
In recent months my perspective has started to change with the realization that my daughter will next fall be starting her high school senior year! As I’ve talked with her classmates, teammates, friends, and their parents, I’ve often been asked for advice about the college selection process. (Though, as I think about it, not yet by my own daughter…)
- There’s a lot of talk--more than I ever recall--about whether college is worth the investment. The evidence has never been clearer—college graduates earn more over the course of their lifetimes, are generally healthier, happier, and more engaged in our democracy. For students who complete their degrees, college is definitely worth it.
- I talk to a lot of high school students who aren’t sure exactly what they want to do with their lives. That’s normal and it is fine, especially because your answer will change…as will the world around you. What is most important about your choice of academic program, then, isn’t to make the “perfect” choice. Instead, choose something you are interested in and excited to learn more about, and that will help you develop the skills and habits you’ll need for a rapidly changing world.
- Academics are undoubtedly the core of any college experience. Research is also clear that out-of-classroom activities matter as well. For example, students who participate in deeply engaging learning opportunities—activities like research, internships, study abroad, service learning—complete their degrees and learn at higher rates than those who don’t. Student-athletes and students who work on campus often have higher graduation rates as well. Give some thought to the types of activities that can complement your academic experience, and make sure you choose a place that offers those.
- Cast your college net wide. Too many students dismiss colleges and universities because of distance from home, cost, etc…and the result is often that students who could thrive at a place that truly fits their interests and needs instead struggle at institutions that seemed like obvious choices. For example, Edgewood College tuition is higher than that in UW-System…yet the percentage of high-need students we serve is higher, as is their completion rate. Size, campus culture, environment, etc.—all these things matter for student success. Don’t make assumptions about affordability or fit—do your homework.
Of course, college isn’t just about programs, buildings, etc. People and environments matter, and the only way you can get a feel for that is to visit a variety of campuses. You can take formal tours on just about any campus throughout the year…but summer is a great time to take a quick look around. In fact, Wisconsin’s independent colleges host Private College Week July 9-4, 2018. You can learn more about that at www.wisconsinprivatecolleges.org. Who knows…if I can get my daughter to read this or if you choose to visit Edgewood College, maybe I’ll see you on a campus visit!Dr. Scott Flanagan became the seventh president of Edgewood College on August 1, 2014. He is a frequent presenter at national conferences on trends in higher education, strategic planning, enrollment management, leadership, and change management. He was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Association of Independent College and Universities in 2017.