If you have a college-bound teenager in the house, narrowing down the selection of college to one that is a perfect can take lots of research and hard work. One way of narrowing down a choice is by visiting college campuses on visitation day. These visits will give your teen the opportunity to be a “student for the day” by sitting in on a lecture, visiting with other students and the faculty, checking out the dorms and cafeteria, and getting a feeling for the overall vibe of the school.
Another way to narrow down the selection is by looking at how the college ranks in terms of retention and graduation rates. This information can be located using the College Navigator database offered by the National Center for Education Statistics.
So what do these terms mean and why are they important?
The retention rates refer to how many students return after their freshman year to continue their studies. According to US News & World Report, one in three freshmen don’t return for reasons that range anywhere from loneliness to financial problems, academic struggles or family issues.
As a parent, these numbers are important to me because they indicate how well a particular college takes care of its students in comparison to similar institutions. If the numbers are significantly lower than average, then the chances are high that my teen (and yours too) won’t be happy at that particular college.
The graduation is the number of first-time students who completed their degrees within six-year period. This percentage is broken down even further into students who graduate in four years, those who graduate in six years, and those who need eight years or longer.
While public universities with open enrollment historically rank in the 30 percentile when it comes to graduating students, a school with a significantly lower graduation rate is not good. Equally important is determining how long a college takes to graduate its students. For families with limited resources like ours, a school that can graduates the majority of its students in four years may be preferable to ones that take six years.
Retention and graduation rates are two more tools that you and your teen can use to help narrow down the choices of a college to attend. Hard numbers like these can break the tie between colleges that seem alike in every other way.
More by this contributor:
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What to budget for college application fees, testing and more?
How many AP classes should my teenager take?
NCES: College Navigator
US News & World Report: Best College Rankings