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Searching for College: What to Consider

Spring is nearly here, and for families with high schoolers approaching the end of their school year, college search efforts are undoubtedly top-of-mind. Although my kiddos are still elementary-aged, I have many friends in this life phase. I’m lucky to have insider access to some of this knowledge since CommunityAmerica has done extensive research on what families need approaching the college years, and how as an organization we can best help them maintain financial peace of mind. One of the most unique findings is that teens have some high-level considerations that aren’t on their parents’ radars:

Distance from Home

Many teens have specific ideas about how far they want to be from home they head off to school. Some want to be down the street, while others hope to earn a great deal of independence moving across the country. This can of course have a big impact on tuition output and travel costs, since he or she may want to come home from time to time.

Social Activities

Although most incoming students are still primarily interested in academics and associated costs, many also have set ideas about what their social life might look like after college. This can include anything from Greek life, to athletic programs, to religious affiliations. Although most know if they want to try out for sports or not, certain programs may have appeal to them. What interests do your teens have that may be on their mind as they search for schools?

Campus Setting

Things like campus and class size, access to facilities and dorm environments are an important part of the higher education experience. Teens often have a pretty clear idea of what kind of environment they can envision themselves in, which influences their overall preferences and ultimate choice. 

Although this research was focused on traditional colleges, trade schools and time in military service are also wonderful ways to grow professional skill sets and kickstart future careers. 

Although these findings aren’t by any means a replacement for financial and other considerations, the search for the right college is a collaborative process. Knowing what might be on your teen’s mind beforehand can facilitate more productive conversations. You can also look for online tools or other checklists to get the conversation going.


Kat’s Money Corner is posted in the Kansas City Star every week. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, follow us on Twitter @CommunityAmerCU.

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