Editor’s Letter: College Guide

Dear Readers,
Our oldest son is a high school junior. Which means, like many of you, our family recently hopped aboard that wild amusement park ride known as the college search. For us, it’s the first time in a long time, so the dips and peaks have been particularly unsettling. Offered the chance to edit this year’s Parents’ Guide to North Carolina Colleges, I figured I’d learn a lot. And I have.

I’ve learned how important college Web sites are, and I’ve found that some schools do a dramatically better job than others of keeping their sites updated and working. While some are almost impossible to navigate, others practically fill out the application for you while simultaneously writing a thank you note for dropping by. I was surprised and delighted to find colleges where an actual person answers the phone after 5 p.m. Twice, someone answered after 6 p.m. in a president’s office. Once, it was a president.

Our Web searches, phone calls and e-mails to these schools were in an effort to provide you with the most valuable and empowering help we could as your family considers the best place for the next years in your teenager’s life. There’s far more information out there than we could provide, but this offers some important references and points you in the direction of others.

Along with data and contact information, I hope you will find the Guide filled with options and a sense of opportunity. One unexpected theme among the experts we spoke with was to look beyond the big-name schools to find the best fit, not the best-known logo. And in the toughest economic times many of us have ever experienced, there is also information on different ways to pay for that college education so that your child’s hard work can be rewarded and dreams can be met even if the funding you expected to be there no longer is.

Like the best amusement rides, this one is proving to be both scary and fun. My precious firstborn has an intense few months of twists and turns ahead of him before he takes that first big step out on his own. And so like those rides, I cannot wait for it to be over, but I also don’t want it to end.

Very best,

Aleta Payne
2009 Parents’ Guide to North Carolina Colleges.