As a parent, you understand the value of choosing the right college. And you only want the best for your child. Helping them select the right school for them is a big task, a task that often brings about a range of concerns.
The best way to handle the situation depends on numerous factors, including how their schooling is being funded and whether they directly asked for your input. So, before you let the confusion of choosing the right college overwhelm you, here are some tips to make the whole decision more manageable.
First we will discuss how to approach the topic with your child, then we will go over key factors that should be part of the decision.
Start with the Money
The amount of input you have regarding your child’s college selection process is tied to who is footing the bill. If they are paying their own way, either with cash they’ve saved, scholarships, or loans in only their name, then you may be limited as to how much you can dictate which school they choose. However, if you are making significant contributions, then you likely have more sway. Still, even if you aren’t able to contribute to their education financially, it is important to remember that they are young and may not fully comprehend the repercussions of student loan debt. For that reason, it is important to be part of the conversation whether you can contribute financially or not.
In The Scholarship System’s course, one thing our families work through is our calculating the total cost of college and understanding what the loan payments will look like before choosing a college. This is a great starting point for the ‘financial talk’ with your child.
Parents who are assisting their children with college tuition often have a strong grasp on what they can afford. So, if a school is outside of that limit, it simply might not be an option. While this can be difficult to discuss with your child, it is necessary to make it clear if you can’t help them with tuition beyond a certain point. That way, they understand that you aren’t saying no because of any personal reason, but a financial one.
However, if your student is managing all of the expenses, then it is their money to spend. Ideally, with scholarships and other forms of financial support that aren’t debt, it doesn’t matter (in a financial sense) if they choose a more expensive school, assuming it would all be covered. No matter who is footing the bill, your child should ALWAYS look for scholarships. This is free money that they do not have to pay back and is available to nearly every student, even if they don’t have a perfect GPA, athletic skills, etc. If you want to learn our best tips on how to find scholarships for college, join us for our next free online training at http://thescholarshipsystem.com/freewebinar.
Still, price isn’t the only factor that should be considered.
Solicited and Unsolicited Advice
Parents are also better positioned to contribute an opinion when advice is requested and not just thrust upon your child. While all parents want to help their kids succeed, throwing in your two sense when your child is trying to manage the decision on their own isn’t always helpful. In fact, it could even backfire if your student has a rebellious streak.
If you are directly asked to help, then feel free to openly discuss the topic. But, it is critical you treat it as a discussion and not orders. You are more likely to create a feeling of support and excitement if you approach the subject with a similar perspective, so try to help your child decide and not just tell them what to do.
Ultimately, you know your child best so just approach the topic how you would approach any other serious subject with them. The important thing is that you are having a discussion in the first place.
OTHER FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING THE RIGHT COLLEGE
Sometimes, there are multiple degrees that allow graduates to pursue similar careers. But that doesn’t mean every academic program is the same. Some may focus more on your child’s areas of interest while others simply allow them to get into the career field they want to join.
In the end, finding a program that elicits excitement may allow your student to be more productive and engaged. That means they will gain more from attending that program than a similar one that lacks that certain something. To manage this task, you both may need to dive fairly deep into the program and course descriptions, but it is an effort that is worth making if it helps them find the right school.
You may also want to consider ranking in that specific subject and career path when choosing the right college. For example, a university may not be ranked highly overall, but it could be very high in a specific major and career path.
One question you can ask is “What is the job placement rate for my child’s major?” While college is a great experience, students are ultimately there to pursue a career.
Most people thrive in environments that offer the right balance of support and challenges. This means finding a suitably strong, yet not overwhelming, academic option that also features a supportive environment that helps students learn in ways that work best for them. Just because a program is considered one of the best in the field doesn’t mean the college’s environment as a whole will help your child learn based on their needs. So make sure and explore both sides of the issue before making a decision.
Additionally, the social and extracurricular aspects of a college should be reviewed. If your child has a particular passion, such as an art or sport, finding a school that allows them to continue pursuing it (even for personal enjoyment) can help make the college experience more welcoming. It also gives them methods for stress reduction and socialization which are both critical to a successful educational outing as a young adult.
Here are some questions you can ask to ensure your child is choosing the right college.
- For athletic students – Do they offer intramural sports? Do they have a free gym for them to workout in?
- For students who have a history of struggling academically – Do they offer student success support? Tutors? Teaching assistants?
- For shy students – Do they have activities within the dorm, major or other subset of the university that can help your student come out of their shell?
- For students who have the travel bug – Does the university have a strong study abroad program and/or relationships with universities abroad?
Sometimes, the easiest way to really get a feel for a school is to go explore it. This may mean scheduling onsite campus tours and spending a few days in the city near the college. Often, you can’t get a real feel for a school’s vibe from just websites and pamphlets, and even reviews by other students may be somewhat skewed. So don’t be afraid to take a road trip to check some of the top contenders out. Your child may see just the thing they needed to make the decision more manageable. Plus, it can be a great bonding experience you can share.
Level of Independence
Children often feel more secure in their independence at different ages. Some kids aren’t as ready to spread their wings and jump out into the world on their own as others. In cases where your student is hesitant to go too far from home, then this is a point that needs to be respected. It is possible they just need the idea that support is nearby to help them gain their footing, so pushing them into a college that is across the country may up their anxiety levels regardless of the rest of the experience.
However, some children feel that they are ready to begin living their own lives; a fact that can be hard for parents to accept. While not every kid is ready for a big leap, some will flourish when given the opportunity to take a big step into adulthood like going away to college. And this can help those students be more successful, especially if you offer your support. Don’t worry – empty nest is not a bad thing!
The Bottom Line
Helping your child with choosing the right college isn’t an easy task. However, by taking the time to handle the discussion right and consider the varying aspects of the overall college experience, you can help set them up for success. And you may even get to grow a little closer along the way.