The 4Ps of Looking for a College

We at CBA are perpetually curious. We love to read/listen/talk about pretty much anything. However, our favorite topics are, of course, anything related to teenagers and the college admissions process!

Lately, we have been listening to Admissions Beat, where “Dean of Admissions Lee Coffin from Dartmouth College provides high school juniors, seniors, and parents, as well as their counselors and other mentors, with “news you can use” at each step on the pathway to college.”

We find his take on the college admissions process and the guests he brings on align with CBA’s guiding principles. Dean Coffin often refers to his idea of looking at 3 (or 4) P’s when searching for “right fit” colleges. On one of his recent podcasts about list building, he said, “I advise you to just think about the three Ps, program, place, people, with price being an important fourth P for lots of families.”

Here is our take on what the 4 P’s Dean Coffin so eloquently describes:

The First P: Place

Of course, it is important to think about the location of the campus (what part of the country) and the type of location (city, suburban, rural) a student wants to attend college in, but it is also important to think about the places on campus where students:

Socialize: Are they in the student center or smaller areas around campus? Where do they congregate on and off campus?

Study: Are they in the library, dorm rooms, or study centers?

Sleep: What kind of residence halls are there? Are there any single-gender dorms? Is housing guaranteed for all four years?

The Second P: People

When students ask us where they will find their “people,” they are often referring to their peers. However, it is essential to also think about other groups of people.

Professors: Are my classes taught by professors or teaching assistants? How big are the classes? In other words, will I have a chance to get to know my professors? Are there any professors studying/researching things you are curious about?

Staff: The staff at a college should not be overlooked, (believe me, when Eydie worked in Student Affairs at Bentley University, she saw some of the students more often than their professors did! What kinds of staff resources are there? How big is the counseling staff or the learning center? You might even want to consider how big the library staff is (Did you know that at NC State, each student gets a dedicated librarian, and Bowdoin College has librarians who specialize in different subjects?) What does the Academic Advising look like?

The Third P: Program:

Let’s face it; you are going to college to study, to learn something new. Yet, some students know exactly what they want to study; some may have some ideas, while others are really lost and have no clues on what they want to study (Fun fact: “What do you think you will major in, is a teenager least favorite question, next to “Where are you applying to college?” No matter where a student falls on that spectrum, there are things to consider about a colleges program, such as:

School’s focus: Are you looking for a school that specializes in something, i.e., technology, like Stevens Institute of Technology or Vaughn College, a liberal arts college like Skidmore College, or a larger research institution like Case Western Reserve University?

Majors: Do they offer the major you want? If so, is there flexibility in that major? Can you double major or even minor? Is something totally different? Not sure of what you want to major in? Are there enough majors that even sound interesting? What happens if I change my mind? Does the college allow me to change majors, and if so, how difficult would it be?

Type of curriculum: Is there a core curriculum(classes I have to take), an open curriculum (I can choose the classes I take), a cluster option (groups of kinds of classes I need to take but have choice within those?

The Fourth P: Price:

When we talk about price, most students and families focus on the tuition and housing costs, which of course, are essential to consider and usually the highest ticket price items in the budget. However, families should not overlook hidden fees such as:

Health Insurance: (most colleges will allow students to waive this if you prove your child is on your health insurance: but watch out for the deadlines; students have to opt out of health insurance by specific dates).

Student Activities fees: are there additional fees the college charges or additional budget items you might need to consider (some club sports charge a fee, and fraternities and sororities have dues)

Travel: how far a school is from home adds not only travel for the student to come home but travel for you to visit, airfare, gas, hotels, etc

Off-campus housing: If the college does not guarantee housing for all four years, what do area housing costs look like? There is a big difference between renting an apartment in NYC vs. upstate NY!

We believe that talking about the total costs of college is a conversation that should happen early on in the process. Student debt is a real problem for many, but with proper planning, you can take control of your financial future. Check out this recent article in the New York Times and investigate what college may actually cost your family using the net price calculator found on most colleges’ websites.

The 4Ps of college research are a great way to organize your search; stay tuned to CBA for an upcoming event where we will provide more information on each of them!

Let’s get started