How to Help Your Teen Choose a College

One of the most popular questions amongst parents with soon-to-be graduating children ask is, “How do I help my child choose the right school?”

Like many things in life, there is not a simple, one-sentence answer. Also like parenting a teenager, there is no way for you, as a parent, to control when your child will come to you for help and with what questions. However, when that time does come there are a few discussion points you can have at the ready in order to start the process of figuring out the right place where your child will succeed.

What Subject Might They Want to Major In?

A high school senior will be asked this question so many times before they even step foot on a college campus, but it’s a necessary question nonetheless. Take note of the passions your child has pursued in their high school years. Do they excel in math and sciences? Are they always spending time in the theater or band room? What subjects do they find challenging but engaging? Asking these questions will help narrow down possible majors they can pursue. Be sure to emphasize the fact that they do not need to decide what to do with the rest of their lives right now; instead, they just need to find a place to start.

How Far Away do They Want to be From Home?

While most parents would love their kids to be within driving distance, many teens may find the idea of attending college across the nation exciting and liberating. Try to keep personal wishes to yourself and really examine what would be best for your child. Have they done well in new situations in the past? Do they enjoy traveling or being away from home for extended periods of time? Do they make friends easily? These traits can help determine whether a child will succeed far away from a home base. If they are more the introverted type, or budgeting is an issue, take the time to examine schools closer to home. The idea of transferring should always be on the table.

What Kind of Financial Aid is Available?

It is not possible to over-emphasize the fact that college is extremely expensive. Student loans seem like such an easy option but it’s likely that the student can’t fully grasp how paying back those loans will affect their lifestyle in the future. Public schools are going to have several scholarship and grant options available, especially if your student has particular passions or excels in certain areas. Go over the finances with your child and explain to them how taking out extensive loans just to attend a private or highly-esteemed school can make things difficult later on.

Does the Campus Seem Like a Good Fit?

When I picked my dream college at 16, I hadn’t yet walked on campus to really get a feel for it. Unfortunately, by the time I did step on campus, I didn’t feel right about it. I ended up transferring schools and racking up some serious student loan debt simply because I didn’t do thorough research. If possible, try to tour as many colleges as you can with your child to see how they feel about the overall vibe. For example, if your child wants to pursue UC’s respiratory therapist programs, see if you can sit in on a class or advisory session. You can never do too much research.

There will be many questions that a student will have when making one of the most important decisions of their lives. Stress that college is a big step but that no matter where they end up, they will succeed.