Whether you’re sending your first child off to college or your fourth, helping your child decide on a college can be stressful for both the child and the parent.
Keeping an open line of communication and offering to help without being too overbearing are some ways to encourage your teen to get excited about college.
1. Easing their fear of college
“Simply let your child know that you are here for them. That it will be tough at times, but you are there to support them,” said Jeff Stahlman, president of the Ohio Association for Admissions Counseling.
It can be scary (and really exciting) to have a new experience like a college environment. The change is an opportunity and an adventure.
Communicating with your teen
Sometimes aunts, uncles, grandparents, coaches, and other adult mentors become great sounding boards for students in the college search process, said Jill Byers, admissions counselor at the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute. While students might not talk to parents about their questions, concerns and decisions, they can often process their thoughts with other trusted adults.
One of Stahlman’s favorite pieces of advice, shared by a parent, is that they talk to their child in a planned meeting once each week. Maybe it is Sunday night, or another specific day and time, but it is a standing conversation, he said. Most students will be texting and calling at other times, but it is good to have this on the calendar.
Understand that once the student is enrolled, all communication about bills and grades will likely go directly to the student’s email account, said Byers.
“FERPA laws require schools to work directly with the students, so don’t be surprised if you get little direct communication — even if you are the one paying the tuition bill,” she said.
“I think the best motivation for preparing for college is to see college,” said Stahlman. Many students have a mental picture of college that may be derived from parents, teachers, and others talking about college, and may view college as something they have to do.
Visiting college campuses will provide students with a first-hand experience of the campus and campus life. “It is also important to remember that there are all types of colleges and all types of educational experiences,” said Stahlman.
Don’t be pushy
“Do your best not to push your agenda onto your children. Let them follow their passions, even if it isn’t your passion,” said Byers.
Too often students start majors or colleges that their parents encourage, and then students end up changing majors or schools once they get on their own. “That just wastes time and money,” she said.
More college tips and advice here.