Helping Students Select a College That's Right For Them: A Christian Perspective From a College Counselor

November 5, 2020

The phrase “college admissions” commonly instigates a feeling of paralysis among both students and parents.

Some students’ reaction is based upon the fear that there are too few options, and they might not be accepted anywhere; others come to a halt because they fear too many options and don’t know where to begin. Some are nervous about leaving home, and some are worried about how the cost will be covered.

Well-meaning friends and family love to ask, “So what are you doing next year? Where are you going?” The college mail keeps piling up, and inboxes are overflowing.

“What if I make the wrong choice?”

“I’ve already filled out ten applications, but what if the ‘perfect’ school is still out there?”

“Does my whole future really hinge on this one decision?”

These are all questions I’ve been asked by conscientious yet unfortunately anxious students.


As a college counselor attempting to remain true to a Biblical worldview, one of my primary goals is to help alleviate anxiety surrounding the college admission and financial aid process. I love Paul’s words in Philippians 4:6–7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

By providing information and encouraging and asking questions, my goal for students is two-fold: first, to consider who God has made them to be; second, to discover which colleges and universities offer curriculum and an environment that will help them thrive at a price they can afford. At Veritas Academy, I do this work through a seven-part college seminar course for the junior class, paired with numerous individual and parent-accompanied consultations.

As a parent, you might not have the knowledge of the college application process that I have, but you know your child better than anyone. You know their strengths and their weaknesses. You are able to perceive where they will achieve new levels of growth. That being said, here are three things I would love to see every parent doing.

1. Begin conversations about college early.

The students who seem to have the most confidence in the college admission process are those who began investigating schools well before they became seniors.


This doesn’t mean you have to spend every summer traveling to visit campuses, and for now, families aren’t even allowed to do that at most schools. However, we have dozens of colleges coming to Veritas virtually this fall, and students are welcome to attend those meetings beginning in 9th grade. This is a great way to get a personal overview of many schools without even spending a dollar on gas.

Being exposed to a variety of colleges and universities helps students confirm what characteristics they value most. After each visit, talk with your student about what he or she liked and didn’t like, give your input, and if you do happen to be on campus, take notes immediately (it’s easy to forget these impressions within a few months).

2. Become familiar with net price calculators.

Do not wait to receive a financial aid award in the spring of your child’s senior year to find out his dream school is going to drive him deep into debt.

If cost is a major consideration, I recommend taking 15 minutes to complete a net price calculator on the proposed college’s website before even agreeing to visit. Using a search engine, type in “net price calculator” and the name of the school. This will allow you to see a fairly accurate assessment of how much merit-based and/or need-based aid your child might be eligible to receive (the “sticker price” means very little).

Be prepared to enter data such as annual income, number of dependents in your family, your child’s GPA, and SAT scores. In fact, manipulate the GPA and SAT figures a few times, so you can see how the scholarship amounts correlate with higher grades and scores (if the school offers merit aid).

You might be surprised to see that a school you thought would be out of your price range is actually very generous with aid. Along these lines, be honest with your child regarding your plans to contribute toward the cost of their education. Are you paying the bill? Are they expected to contribute a certain amount, or are they responsible for all of it? Don’t wait until senior year to have this talk.

3. Be present throughout the entire process.

This doesn’t mean hovering over your child’s shoulder as a micro-manager or doing the work for them. Rather, you can serve as a calming presence, assuring them of their capabilities and reminding them of their value, regardless of what happens once their applications have been submitted.


Your student really values your opinion, even if they don’t always act like it. They need you to help them weigh the pros and cons of each school and to help them understand the ramifications of each option. If you notice the application process seems to have stalled, ask them how they’re feeling about it. Completing applications and writing essays while taking advanced-level coursework, playing sports, and/or rehearsing every night can take a toll. Empathize with them and pray for them.

The college admissions process can be confusing, frightening, and exciting all at the same time. Ultimately, remember James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Rest assured in God’s promises.

Veritas Academy hosts an annual college financial aid seminar for high school students, and this year it's gone virtual! If you have a student in 9th through 12th grade, you can sign up to access this virtual financial aid seminar, presented by Sonya Mann-McFarlane of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. Click the button below to sign up!


About our Guests

Rachel Kiehl

Director of Counseling

Rachel Kiehl

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