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Preparing Your Child for College

Helping your child prepare for college can be extremely emotional and stressful. There aren’t many ways to help ease the sadness around your child potentially leaving home, but there are many ways to help make this process as smooth as possible. Preparing too early or too late could change the landscape of your child’s experience. However, even the concept of going to college is a good thing to mull over. Is college right for your child? If it is, then how can we help set them up with realistic, healthy, expectations?

Four Tips to Help Prepare Your Child for College

  1. Remember, you are not the one going. It’s really easy for us parents to want to help out with the process of college as much as possible. I highly advise parents to stay in the backseat when it comes to many of the processing your child has to go through. I see too often on college visitation the parents taking control of the conversation. Remember your kid is going to live there for the next four years so you want to let them ask the questions they need to ask to decide where they want to go. When I served as a college counselor I met with many students who felt they were either at the wrong school or in the wrong major but had to “make their parents proud.” I am not suggesting to not advise your child with these big decisions, but these decisions will affect them for a lifetime.  
  1. Remind your child to expand their options. There are so many colleges in America that there is no way you’ve heard of most of them. With different pressures from society, your child may have a list of schools he or she would want to attend. You always want to make sure you have backup plans if their first options don’t work out. Sometimes the schools we haven’t heard of are the ones that can give you more money. Community college is a cheaper deal almost anywhere you look. You can save up to half or a third of tuition money starting at a CC. The average debt a college student obtains can add up to $2,400 every 6 months. With the demand of going to graduate programs increasing and financial aid usually not being part of graduate degrees, debt is something you want to heavily consider when choosing schools.
  1. Help your teen stay organized! We all know that by late high school a lot of our organization is gone. Even for those who which this does not apply to, organization during these final processes are crucial. Once you show a school that you’re interested, they start sending you mail after mail. You don’t want to miss important deadlines like early bird application or class registration. Keep a calendar and remind yourself when things are coming up.
  1. Talk with them about finances: For most students entering college, finance is  not something thought a lot about. College is also the time period you will most likely accumulate the most debt. As an experienced parent, I find it very helpful when parents talk to their kids EARLY about finances. Which scholarships can still come your way, which loan plans will work best, and where your emergency money will come from. College should be for everyone but not everyone can always afford college. You can help change this by helping your child make good financial choices entering college.