And You Thought the Application Process Was Stressful!
August, October, November, December, January – five months should be enough to have to sustain the worries, deadlines, fears, and complications of putting together everything that is entailed with applying to college. Actually, the fun has just begun.
As early as January and until April 15, your son or daughter will be receiving acceptances, and surely the possibility exists that s/he will get an acceptance from one of those stretch colleges, one of those high-priced colleges, or one of those colleges that you really didn’t want him/her to attend. The strategy of application requires you have a variation of places to apply to; we take our chances. And, the peer pressure that has been at bay while the applications were completed may now have time to reassert itself. At this point the influence to go to the most elite or the most popular among your son’s or daughter’s friends will be felt. Who decides where that deposit for fall will go?
Parents Should Have the Final Say?
As a parent your first tendency is to acknowledge that you are paying, after all! Even with full scholarships or good financial aid packages, there are transportation costs; incidentals like clothes, computers and cars; books; and more. If you are making a substantial contribution to the cost of college, you should have something to say about what college you will pay for. This is not unreasonable. College students need to understand there is a price tag for education, that everyone sacrifices for an education, that they have reason to be grateful, and that they have reason to work hard.
Parents are also wiser and have an innate sense about their child. You can often recognize what traits of your son or daughter fit best with the feel of a campus or the academic expectations. You know the distance from home, the ability of your son to adjust to a new environment, or how your daughter could play loose with her new freedomwhich may affect the success she will have at a particular school. Certainly your knowledge should be shared and have a bearing on which college choice is best. Your son or daughter will thank you for guiding them, for pointing them in the right direction. Your influencing them for good reasons not to go to their choice may save them a lost year or a sense of unnecessary failure
But, what if you are wrong?
Your Son or Daughter Should Have the Final Say?
Will your influence hamper their potential? Could they find the city or the country is good for them, after all? Might they rise to a challenge when you least expected it while you tried to protect them? Will that extra tuition cost allow them to network for high-paying jobs and make their futures?
And, your son/daughter will need to learn the lesson about accepting the consequences of their decisions, too. There are real consequences they will have to face if they make a wrong choice about attending a particular college. One consequence is money lost. Maybe they will have to offset those losses because of a poor choice by making up the difference when they attend a college in the future. What they learn as they work through the options as a result may be a very good education and mature them for their next college experience.
To decide for them or not to decide for them, that is the question.
The best course is to begin very early on to discuss the sticking points about making a decision for college. We do not want to cut youth short, but in today’s world reality and consequences should be taught early on. When parents wait until the junior or senior year to discuss college, they will find their son or daughter has already had a fast education from peers, advertisers, and school personnel; and that education may not emphasize the same points and values you have.
So, talk about your financial status and what that can afford your child for an education early on. Look at loans and show them what the true cost with interest is. Discuss what school debt does to a salary after graduation and your son has his first job. Dialog with your daughter about how she envisions her college years: with trips, clothes, and a car or being stretched for cash.
You need to also discuss the value of an undergraduate education vs graduate education. Which is more valuable and how does an undergraduate school affect admission to a good graduate school? And, talk with college graduates and family members about what a good education is: rubbing shoulders with the privileged, having a great library, knowing your professors personally?
Another area to talk about is what type of person your child is and how that will affect their decisions about the size of a campus and the types of classes he/she wants and will feel comfortable with. List preferences through the four years of high school, and watch how they change and where they are heading.
Talk about this decision as only one step toward a future. As long as your son or daughter can understand that this decision can be modified or changed, how it is only part of their preparation for the future, the more flexible they will be about the decision.
And, try to establish your child’s sense of independence. He needs to see that decisions he makes apart from the crowd can be hard but beneficial. She can learn that she is unique and be proud about that.
The more you talk with your son or daughter, the better rapport you develop, the less mystery there is about what will happen on the night the magical admission letter arrives, and the better dynamic will be in place to make a decision without having to battle over the power of the decision. The perfect balance is, after all the talk, that your son or daughter makes the final decision with parental agreement!