Deciding which college to attend can be an overwhelming process for everyone involved. As parents of someone making this choice, your role is to guide and assist your teen with this difficult but exciting decision. However, many parents start out with strong opinions about the best college for their children. Some parents push for the cheapest school, while others dream of prestigious Ivy League universities or the school from which they graduated. Regardless of your own hopes and dreams, it’s important to never push or force a decision on a new high school graduate. Below, we’ve listed ways you can be helpful to your future college students while still letting them have the final say.
Get on the same page
Right when high school students begin to look at potential schools, you should sit down together and discuss what they’re really looking for in a college or university. What type of program are they interested in? Is it preferable to be close to home or farther away? Is online learning a good option? What about attending a large university versus a smaller private college? What kind of activities do they hope to be involved in? While they might not know the answers to all of these questions right away, it will help both of you to get a clearer picture of the kind of schools to be looking for so that you can help find the best fit.
Make a list
Of course, high school students will have their own lists, but parents should feel comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions as well. As a parent, you can make your own comprehensive list of all the schools you think would be a good fit and then narrow it down based on some of your child’s preferences. While students will often cross out some of their parents’ recommendations immediately, your son or daughter will likely be willing to consider at least one or two of your preferred schools.
Explain your rationale
Of course, you might think you know best, but it’s never wise to say so. If you and your child disagree on which school is the best fit, offer up a detailed explanation of why you
picked the school that you did and avoid getting into heated or emotional arguments.
When your high schooler comes to you with concerns or asks for advice about college, share your thoughts while clearly stating that you will support whatever decision is made. Encourage and remind your child that he or she has the skills and capability to make this type of decision.
Show up for school visits
Any high school student is bound to be nervous touring an unfamiliar college campus alone, so be sure to go along as support. Additionally, it’s a good idea to come prepared with a list of
questions to ask the tour guide, college staff, and faculty. If your child has the option to sit in on a class, meet a faculty member, or talk with current students, encourage him or her to take advantage of the opportunity. Spending extra time on campus and meeting members of the college community will provide a better sense of what life is really like there.
Take a vote
At the end of the day, the person actually going to college should be the one making the final decision on what school to attend, but it can be helpful to know what other people are thinking. One way to do this is for your child, you, your spouse, other important family members, and even the guidance counselor or a favorite teacher to vote which schools you think are the best fit. While the school with the most votes may not ultimately be chosen, this can be a great opportunity for each of you to offer input, explain why you chose the school you did, and point out pros and cons that might not otherwise be considered.
Guiding your child through the college application and decision process can be tricky, but we’re here to help! If you’re struggling with the admissions process, have questions about financial
aid, or want to learn more about any of our academic programs, contact us to speak with one of our admissions representatives, who can help guide you through every step of the process so that you and your child can find the best fit!