Students often feel pressure to find and get into the right college. Unfortunately, the criteria some students use to select a college is faulty. Where your student goes to college matters…but not for the reasons you might think.

It’s time for families to put away preconceived notions about the value of college rankings or national reputations. The right college for your student is one that will catapult him or her toward his or her post-graduation goals. Rankings may be part of the equation, but here are three types of colleges that will influence your student’s outcomes the most.


The best colleges for your student will:

  • provide outstanding academic training in his or her chosen profession
  • support him or her during internship and job searches
  • connect him or her with a large network of alumni and employers

If you help your student narrow down his or her career choice now, he or she can factor the quality of an academic program into the college search. This will also give your student the opportunity to explore how well different colleges invest in the professional development of their students.


The average college student graduates with over $30,000 in debt. Student loan payments can severely restrict a new graduate’s budget, making it harder for him or her to afford housing, save for emergencies, and even make career moves.

The college your student attends will influence how much money he or she needs to earn a degree. By choosing an affordable school, your student will better position his or herself to graduate with little or no debt.

To do this, look for schools that:

  • give money to students that match your student’s financial, academic, and extra-curricular profile. There are various types of colleges (i.e. Ivy League, public flagship schools, small private schools). Each recruits a different type of student and uses financial awards to attract them. Use the U.S. Department of Education’s Net Price Calculator to find the types of colleges that are most generous to students like yours. For more information about this practice, see this post.
  • meet 100% (or almost 100%) of student need. For most students, there is a gap between the price of a college and what they are able to pay. Some colleges have the financial resources to cover this gap for admitted students. To find the percent of a student’s need specific colleges meet, search for schools on the College Board website. Look specifically at the average financial aid package for need met information.  You can also conduct a web search for colleges that meet 100% of a student’s need.


An ugly college reality is that a large percentage of students don’t graduate in four years, if at all. This cost students (and their families) a lot of money.

It’s important that your student finds a college that is taking action to make sure its students can graduate on time. Here are some things you can consider to find schools that will support your student’s on-time graduation:

  • What is the college’s current record for graduating students on-time?
  • How well will this college meet my student’s unique academic needs?
  • How involved are academic advisors and faculty members in supporting on-time graduation initiatives?
  • What is the school doing to make sure classes that students need are available when they need them?


Students choose the college they attend for a lot of reasons. If you want to help your student get more out of college and minimize loan debt, guide him or her to colleges that support these objectives.