Some parents might not be ready to say goodbye to their teenagers, but the fact is that high school only lasts so long. Once that long awaited senior year is finished (and yes..it does fly by), many young adults will be making the move towards higher education. This means different things for different people. Generally speaking, this is the time to pick a college or university.
If you’re going to be sending your first graduated off to college in the next year or so, you’re going to have a lot of things to do. At the top of the list is helping your son or daughter pick a college in the first place. Some kids make it easy on their parents. I chose one college, applied, went, and graduated without a second thought. However, it’s the rare teenager that can decide that easily.
There are ways to get more organized in the whole process. The following is a list of tips you can use to help take some of the stress out of choosing the right college with your son and daughter.
Encourage your teen to see college representatives – Throughout the year, colleges and universities will send representatives to high schools all over the state. Their mission is to advertise the university by informing students of what they have to offer in both academics and extracurricular activities. Make sure your son or daughter is signing up for these presentations. Have them bring home brochures and other materials to go over with them at home. This will help you make a decision together.
Take cost into account – It’s going to be important for your teen to go to the college of their choice, but it’s also going to be important to stay within your own personal budget. College isn’t cheap. Loans are an option, but you or your child is going to have to pay them back eventually. Take the tuition and housing costs into account and decide what is and isn’t affordable. Urge your teen to choose from those that fall into your budget guidelines. If they want the more expensive one, let them know that the extra burden will fall to their shoulders. Remember, scholarships and grants go a long way towards helping, but you will still end up footing part of the bill
Go on campus tours – Seeing what the colleges your son or daughter have to choose from in a brochure is a lot different than actually being there. Schedule visits with your child to the campuses of their choice. This will give you both the chance to see what they’re really like. If you have to travel a certain distance, many high schools will offer an excused absence for a long weekend for a college visit. Once there, you can explore the classrooms, talk to professors, and get a general feel for the college atmosphere. Call ahead before you schedule. Colleges who know you’re interested are likely to offer you tickets to a sporting event or a free tour guide for the days that you’re there.
Narrow down the choices – This is always the toughest step if you have an indecisive son or daughter. Once campus tours have been taken, it’s time to start picking and choosing. Have them narrow the field down to no more than ten choices. The fewer the better, since college applications can cost anywhere from $20 to $60 to process. Have them pick their three favorites and then list the others in order from their most desired to least. If you’re starting far enough ahead of time, send in the first three and wait to see what the results are. Getting an answer can take a few months, so if you’re working with a deadline, get them all in ASAP.
Deal with the rejection/acceptance letters – The hope is always that your son or daughter will have been brilliant and impressive enough to get into any college they want. That’s not always realistic though. When the letters start rolling in, make sure they’re prepared for rejection. It happens. Then sit down with your teen and choose from the acceptance letters which college will be best for them. Once they made a decision, the college choosing process is done and it’s time to start the ball rolling on enrollment.
Choosing is half the battle, so once this process is done, take a moment and enjoy not having that weight on your shoulders. Take pride in your teen and make sure they’re comfortable with their choice. After all, it’s a choice that’s going to effect all of you for the next few years.