As you anticipate your child's college choice, you're probably wondering: What role should I play throughout the whole process? How can I provide support without my kid feeling like I'm taking over? To find a few answers, we talked to five students about how their parents helped them make the best decision possible. We hope their experiences will be helpful as you figure out how to guide your own son or daughter through the search experience.
College: Point Loma Nazarene University
Location: San Diego, California
When I think about how my parents helped me, one word comes to mind: organization.
Early in my search, my parents bought me binders to help me keep track of all the brochures and other college information. The binders allowed me to store all my important information in one place, instead of scattered around my bedroom! As I began to focus on a few schools, Dad encouraged me to make pro/con lists, writing down both the positive and the negatives I saw in each school I was seriously considering. This was a good "tool" because it allowed me to compare my lists, and it also helped me see which schools rose to the top and which ones fell to the bottom.
To my parents, my top "pro" made sense: a good broadcast journalism program. They knew I was very interested in some sort of broadcast career, so they encouraged me to keep this in mind with each school I looked at. One of my other priorities, though, might have puzzled them a little: a warm, sunny beach. Yes, I wanted a place where I could relax on a sandy shoreline after a tough day of classes. Even though "warm beaches" might not have topped my dad's list for me, he did caution me when I started considering a Midwestern school with really cold winters. The thing was, I liked everything about that schoolexcept for the location.
Another school on my list was Point Lomaa university that sat right on a southern California beach. My parents encouraged me to carefully compare the two schools. The more I did, the more I realized they really were quite similarexcept Point Loma had the sun and the beach. Since both my mom and my sister had attended Point Loma, they told me all about it. The more they talked, the more I was convinced that Point Loma was the perfect place for me.
Along with my parents' loving support throughout the whole process, I realized that their sense of organization helped me keep my paperwork from getting out of hand. It also helped me carefully critique my top choices.
College: Belhaven College
Location: Jackson, Mississippi
Since I planned to play football at college, Dad was helpful during my search. He was a college athlete and really worked with me to find the right program. In several after-dinner conversations, he literally "coached" me on how to talk to athletic directors. He helped me figure out what questions to ask and he also helped me make sense of answers. He said that you could tell a lot about their enthusiasm or lack of enthusiasm for the program by the tones of their voices over the phone. Dad was right. As I talked to coaches and athletic directors, I got a good feel for their programs, their teams, their goals and their expectations.
At first, my dad was very active in my search. He offered suggestions that helped me find out a lot about what a certain school had to offerand his tips went beyond just the athletic department. But in time, he started to pull back and say less and less. It was a little frustrating at first, but then I realized what he was up to. He wanted me to take over and own the process. And that's exactly what happened. I can honestly say the final decision was really minethanks to my dad.
College: Anderson University
Location: Anderson, Indiana