A Homeschooler’s Guide to Comparing Colleges

One of the hardest parts of the college process is whittling down all the choices to a manageable few. There are thousands of great colleges out there, but you’re looking for the one that will be perfect for your child! Fortunately, there are some great tools available to help you decide whether a potential college makes the cut. To begin a basic comparison of different colleges, take a look at resources such as US News and World Report’s “College Guide,” “Profiles of American Colleges” by Barron, or “Four Year Colleges” by Petersons. These books rank colleges in a variety of different areas, and allow you to compare actual statistics between individual colleges. They won’t have more than one or two pages on each college, so even though the books are huge, the amount of information you have to read about each college is pretty small. There are some very interesting statistics you’ll find about colleges. One of the things that I found most interesting was the four-year graduation rate. This can be pretty important, because if a college is less expensive but it takes a student six or seven years to graduate, the cost of that college will actually be significantly higher than it appears. Another important statistic is the school’s student employment rate after graduation. Although there are multiple factors in this situation, it’s important to know whether most of the graduates from that school get a job within a reasonable amount of time. The graduate school admission rate is also a helpful statistic to look at, whether your child plans to go or not. Those statistics can tell you about the quality of advising by the college, how academically prepared they are, and whether they’ve really done a good job of educating their students. If you do have a student who wants to go into medical or law school, look specifically at this number. There are some colleges that have an enormously high admission rate to graduate school about 98% to 99%. Other schools have a significantly lower admission rate, maybe 50% to 70%. A particularly important statistic for most families looking at college is the average price that students pay, sometimes listed as the average amount of financial aid (in which case you would subtract that from the sticker price of the college). The cost of college has very little to do with the sticker price that’s listed in a view book or even in the phonebook-sized college statistic books, because financial aid can vary so much. Look at the price that students actually paid for a college, because this will help you know how to compare schools in the all-important area of financial aid.