Searching for college starts sooner than you may think, and many parents aren't quite ready for how intense it can be. If your child is getting ready to take the big step, it's important to know what your role in the process should be. Below is a bit of advice that can make the process of searching for a college a bit easier on everyone involved.
You are going to be your child's most valuable resource during the application process, so start educating yourself. Look into financial aid, graduation requirements, and state residency requirements early on so that you can help your child prepare for the transition between high school and college. It's also a good idea to start looking at things like which college has the fastest accelerated online degrees and which has the best post-employment rate for your child's intended major. While your child might not choose to use all of this information, it's vital that you have it available.
It can be easy to try to be in charge when you are navigating the college search, but try to remember how important it is to let your child handle the big stuff on his or her own. If he or she can't handle applying, he or she certainly won't be able to handle the rigors of college - so take a step back. Be available to help when he or she has questions and don't be afraid to remind your child about deadlines, but let your child be the one in charge of the overall journey.
Be Willing to Listen
Your child is almost certainly going to have a rough time with this process. Applying to college isn't just something that takes a great deal of work - it's something that will have a huge impact on how your child perceives himself or herself. As he or she gets stressed out by applying, you need to be available to lend an ear. Take some time to listen to your child and to provide advice when asked, but always default to being a sympathetic listener. If you can let your child process what's going on, he or she will usually rise to the occasion.
In addition to listening, you also need to be physically available. The entire college admissions process is made of smaller steps, and your child is going to need your help. Whether this means providing transportation to college fairs or going along on college visits, making yourself available can be a very valuable part of the college search process. Your child is going to lean on you during this time, so make sure that you are there for him or her.
Remember Who is Making the Choice
The final step is to remember why you're going through all of this work. At the end of the day, it's your child who is going to have to live with this decision for the rest of his or her life. One of the best pieces of advice you'll get during this process is to help your child find the best path to the life he or she wants, not the one you want for him or her. You may have dreamed of your child going to a specific school or pursuing a certain course of study, but right now you need to focus on helping your child achieve his or her own dreams.
Your role as a parent during this search won't be easy, but it is important. Do your homework, then be willing to become a resource that your child may or may not choose to use. It can be difficult to give up control when the end result is so important, but learning to work with your child instead of doing the work for your child is a lesson that will help you both.
This item was posted by a community contributor.