With so many factors to consider when choosing a college to attend, how can you help your child prepare?
Recognize that your child is his/her own person, and that their goals and aspirations may not be the same or even closely related to yours. They have to build a life for themselves, pursuing their own passions and making their own mistakes—just as you did so many years ago. By understanding that your child is not heading off to college to fulfill your dreams, but rather fulfill their own, you can approach them as equals—helping them value your opinions and be excited about sharing this special time with you.
Consider taking your child out for dinner or coffee to discuss what their hopes are for their college experience. Remember, their idea in choosing a college may not solely be based on academics, but various social activities, the location or extra curricular programs a college has to offer. Take time to understand their viewpoints and feel free to share your own (respectfully—again, as equals).
Once your child understands what he/she wants out of college, getting their academics in order is imperative. Encourage them to take advanced courses in subjects of interest and pursue various internships that may be beneficial for them. Help your child to become responsible for themselves—creating their own study plans and then following through independently. The goal is to teach them to learn, act and engage by themselves—asking for help when needed. You cannot do any of this for them.
Not sure what is expected as far as testing? Check out The College Board website to help you understand the SAT, ACT and college application process. The more information you and your child have on hand, the better prepared you will be.
If your child is set on going away to college, sit down with them to discuss and plan out the logistics of their move. Determine what items they plan to bring with them, what rooming situations are comfortable for them, and how you can help support them as they transition.
Most students choose to rent a small self-storage unit that is close to campus so that they do not need to transport their items back and forth when the year ends. It also serves as a convenient place to store larger items (sports equipment, boxes of seasonal clothing, etc), that wouldn’t fit within their dorms. With sizes designed to fit any budget, and the opportunity to share a rental space with other students, the cost is minimal compared to the convenience it provides.
Regardless of whether you were able to save the full tuition amount, a portion, or nothing at all, discussing your financial situation with your child and the expectations associated with it is key. Allow your child to be a part of the conversation so that they appreciate the money that is going towards their education (whether it is from your own wallet or theirs). If you are having trouble navigating the financial aid and loan process, this simple website provided by the US Dept of Education can help answer your questions.
"The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence."—Denis Waitley
By taking the time to understand your child’s aspirations—while helping them to prepare academically, logistically, and financially to achieve them—each of you will be ready to tackle this new season of life together. To a successful college career!