It’s ‘HOW’ You Go to College, Not ‘WHERE’

The latest update from the Common Application reveals a promising trend: as of March 1, college applicants have surged by 6% compared to the same period last year. This data pertains to applications for fall 2024 admissions to four-year institutions. 

During this timeframe, a notable 1,313,763 distinct first-year applicants have submitted their applications to 834 institutions through the Common App. This marks an increase of over 70,000 applicants from the prior year. 

Furthermore, applicants are applying to slightly more institutions in the 2023-24 cycle compared to the previous one, with a 1% increase from 5.66 to 5.74 applications per applicant. 

While applications are up, institutions are still weary of where the numbers will shake out with FAFSA issues and traditional melt creating a wedge. With the closing of one enroll year and the looming opening of another, a benefit you can highlight for your institution may be the “how’s” of your school.  

The “Today” show recently acknowledged the expanding diversity of educational pathways available to students beyond the conventional four-year college route. While the choice of institution (“where”) has traditionally been paramount for both parents and students, there’s a growing recognition of the significance of the mode of college attendance (“how”). 

So, what exactly does it entail to prioritize the “HOW” of college attendance over the “WHERE,” and what aspects should institutions emphasize to address this shift? 

  1. Educational Approach: Colleges may adopt various educational methodologies, such as liberal arts education, technical training, or specialized programs. Understanding a college’s educational approach can assist in aligning it with a student’s learning style and career aspirations.
  1. Flexibility: Some colleges offer flexible learning options, including online courses, part-time study, or alternative scheduling. Parents should consider how these options cater to their child’s needs and preferences.
  1. Cost and Financial Aid: The “how” of college attendance encompasses understanding financial aspects like tuition costs, availability of scholarships and financial aid, as well as opportunities for work-study or internships to mitigate expenses.
  1. Support Services: Investigating the support services provided by different colleges is crucial. This includes academic advising, counseling, career services, and accommodations for students with disabilities or unique requirements.
  1. Extracurricular Opportunities: In addition to academics, parents should explore the extracurricular activities offered at each college. These could range from clubs and sports to research opportunities, internships, or study abroad programs.
  1. Graduation Rates and Career Outcomes: Assessing a college’s graduation rates and the career outcomes of its graduates offers insights into the effectiveness of its programs and the success of its alumni.

In essence, while the “where” of college choice remains important, it’s equally vital for parents and students to consider how a particular college experience aligns with their educational and career goals, as well as their individual needs and preferences. This holistic approach to college research can pave the way for a successful and enriching educational journey. 

By Cat Hollands, Capture Client Trainer, Capture Higher Ed