Your child is ready. He’s kept up his grades and he has decided that he wants the benefit of a college education. It’s decision time. With over 4,000 public 4 year colleges in the country, there are a lot of decisions and choices you will need to make.

You can make your decision based on numerous factors, and their importance ranks differently for everyone. What is most important to you? Location? Academics? Sports Programs? Financial considerations?

The first thing that needs to happen is that the student needs to look deep inside himself/herself and ask “what do I want.” Everyone the student knows will have some sort of opinion or recommendation. These opinions can be helpful, but in the long run, the student must make the decision.

Every college is different and offers a different experience.

Some students want a college with an artsy feel. Others want a college with an emphasis placed on sports. Others prefer academics pure and simple and are looking for an academic challenge. Class size and campus size is a factor for some. Do you prefer a large university campus or a small intimate university setting? Some colleges are located in sleepy college towns and some near bustling cities. Some students prefer to stay near home.

The college location is another huge factor when choosing. Perhaps the student is looking forward to the excitement of a move out of the house and the independence associated with college and is choosing to study out of state. Is the student ready to share a dorm with a total stranger? It is a fact that 90% of college freshmen have never even shared a bedroom – something that can make the concept of “sharing space” and compromise more difficult.

Finances also come into play when decisions are made about college. Most states award their residents with substantial savings if they attend in-state colleges. The cost of an out-of-state college education rapidly escalates when room and board expenses are added. The student and parents must also consider food and transportation costs for out of state education.

Please don’t forget when choosing any college that there are billions of dollars a year available in scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid available to the parents and to the student to help offset college expenses.