Sometime around the junior or senior year of high school, the average student starts thinking about what happens after graduation. For many students the answer is college, in one form or another. The task then becomes to choose the college or university that will give the best experiences and the best leg up to getting a productive job after graduation. Entire industries have sprung up around helping high school students and their families to choose the college or university that is right for them. However, here are a few simple tips that can make the process easier and less intimidating.First of all, remember that college is what you make of it. This means that each student can have an amazing experience regardless of where he goes to college. Whether your student goes to a small private college or a large state school, there will be opportunities for new experiences everywhere. The successful college student is not the one who goes to the best school but the one who decides to experience all of the positive things along the way. This means that the choice of schools is not as important as the college counselors would like for you to believe that it is.Secondly, you need to choose a college that fits with your finances. If you cannot afford the cost of a small private college, be honest and say so. If you would prefer that your student spend a few years at a community college checking off prerequisites, then say that too. Finding a college that fits your finances is an important aspect of making a choice that is right for your family. A college that is out of your price range will leave you or your child burdened with loans long after the degree is completed and the first job is obtained.In addition to finding a school that fits in with your finances, do not forget to consider all of your possible options. When everyone your student knows is going away to college it can be difficult to consider spending a few years at home taking advantage of the discount rate at a community school. However, this is an option that can be smarter in the long run than four years at a huge state school or a tiny private university. You should also encourage your student to test out of as many prerequisites as possible in order to reduce the total number of classes that she needs to take.Once you and your high schooler have examined all of these criteria, there will probably be two or three schools that seem as though they would be a good fit. At this point you can take the time to visit each of these schools and see what they have to offer in person. Many schools allow prospective students to stay the night with a current student in order to get a firsthand glimpse of what college life is like. After visiting a few schools you will probably have a sense of which one would be the best fit for your family and your student. Going through this decision making process enables you to think through what you need in a college and what fits in with your family budget and lifestyle.