Parents’ Guide to College 2023 Special Section
Wouldn’t it be great if parents could just Google or ask Alexa or Siri “what is the best college or university for my child?”
Well, let’s see what happens.
Siri offered a website of the 12 best colleges for single parents and students with children. Alexa suggested Glasshouse Christian College in Beerwah, Australia. And in 52 seconds, Google provided 1,750,000.000 results and a list of the best colleges for students with children in 2023 – not exactly what we asked (Ferris State and U-M made the list, by the way).
Sorry, parents. It’s not going to be that easy.
May 1 is “National College Signing Day” or “Decision Day,” a day when photos and hashtags and declarations about college decisions inundate social media, web sites and local newspapers. It can be a day of great joy and excitement, but also one of relief. It’s months, even years, of trying to figure things out, weighing all the options, considering the pros and cons and then signing on the dotted line.
So, where do parents start?
Well, the best place to start is early – way before the starting line.
Parents need to encourage their future college student to seize the moment and be relentless in their pursuit of the right fit. Don’t wait until halfway through your junior year to start the process. Understand what colleges and universities are looking for in a potential student – remember, you don’t just get to pick what school you want to go to, you also have to be accepted. Parents can research some of these areas – such as what extracurriculars stand out – so the student can start adding things to their potential college resume.
Getting good grades is just as important as a freshman as they are as a senior. And it’s never too early to preach (or suggest) strong study habits early in their child’s education because it will not only help get them into college, but help them succeed once they get there.
Another to-do early in the process is encouraging some soul searching before making a list of colleges. Parents should ask their teenager what they like about high school and what they don’t like. Would they be a better fit at a huge university or a smaller school? Do they have a special interest such as the arts where they might prosper more from going to a school that specializes in areas they are passionate about. What are some
“must haves” they want in a school and also some “never in a million years.”
Parents should explain to their child what they can and cannot expect from them related to the financial contribution to their education – that’s very important. Also, research and explain the long-term costs of student loans and how that can be a major challenge when starting out on their own (paying a $500/month loan when making $15 an hour at your first job can be a bummer).
Also, research information that will be useful and can be factored into the equation such as career opportunities, pay scale, job growth and potential, even locations where these types of jobs can be found.
Ultimately, parents need to remember they are guides in the process. Their opinions and input obviously matter but the final decision is ultimately not theirs to make (even if they are paying the bills). Parents can even ask their child how they can help. Let your child decide how much input they want – the answer might just surprise you.
Parents should want their child to pick the school they feel most comfortable at and where they want to be – not where their parents want them to be.
And don’t stress about finding the so-called perfect college, because in truth, there is no perfect college, but hopefully there are a few colleges that appear to be a best fit for your child. And remember, the ultimate decision is theirs – and make sure they know that.