Parents – I have been where you are. I have survived the late night feedings, the endless soccer/swimming/dance/whatever else events, the lengthy “discussions” about cleaning their rooms, and teaching them how to drive a car. Don’t even get me started on driving lessons. And I have also survived the college search process for both of my kids, and we still talk to each other! So here is my parent survival guide to the college admissions process.
- Let them go -Start the separation process (cutting the cord) now with baby steps. Have them set up the college visits and then drive there. Make sure they are the ones finding the gas station around campus, choose the meal locations, and find parking (parking can be a beast at times, even at UGA). Have them cook dinner once a week, and set one day a week for them to do their own laundry and room cleaning. They are going to be living with a roommate, and a clean room and decent smelling clothes are important. Have them set their own alarm to wake up and get moving, unless you plan on making a wake up call every morning during their first year of college. Have them set up a college admissions board/virtual board with deadlines, dates, required items, and then set up a one hour a week meeting with the parents to go over college admission things.
- Money – Go ahead and talk about it. When my son was making a list of the colleges he was considering as an engineering major, he mentioned applying to MIT. This started a short discussion about colleges and reality. One, if you were admitted, would you go there? Two, have you looked at the admissions rate (not generally important, but for schools like MIT, it is) of 4%, and thought about the likelihood of admission? Three, do we have $300,000 (about $75K a year) plus in the college fund? He soon decided that MIT was not on the list. Don’t wait until May senior year is approaching before having the money discussion, but rather have it prior to submitting applications. Talk about overall costs, possible scholarships, need based aid possibilities, etc., then make plans for where to apply.
- Fit – When your student is admitted to different colleges, make sure to talk about the overall fit for them. Does it have the academic programs they are looking for, and do they have options that might interest them in case they change their major? Look at the overall fit as far as cost, and don’t get caught up in the scholarship vs overall cost conundrum. If college X costs $15,000 a year, and college Y costs $40,000 a year, and Y gives a $10,000 scholarship, that is still a big overall cost differential. Receiving a scholarship is a good feeling, but you also need to look at the final cost and determine what is best. While every college will look great in the admissions brochure, what is the weather like from August to May, and is your student good with that? Does your student want the feel of the city, a large college town, or a remote small town feel?
- Help – Everyone needs it sometime. What is the support system like at each college? How expansive is the medical center, the personal wellness options, and the academic assistance programs? Will your student have the assistance they need if/when they hit a speedbump in their college career?
- Just be there – At times, the best thing you can do for your student is just to be available to listen. At some point in the admissions process, they will most likely have a freak-out, and you just need to be there to help them get through it.
This is an exciting time for everyone, as they next steps in the life of your student are right around the corner. I wish everyone well in this process, and Go Dawgs!!