The best way to prepare your children for college is to begin planning for the financial and academic challenges well in advance. By establishing a plan early, you can ensure that your children are well prepared to make the transition to college. Despite what many people will have you believe, establishing this plan doesn’t have to be overly complicated. This college planning guide will discuss four key ways parents can help their children prepare for college.
Although the bulk of college planning can be done in high school, establishing a college savings plan is something that needs to happen years beforehand. The price of a college education has risen dramatically over the last two decades and shows no sign of slowing down. This can cause a huge financial burden for your family, as the average college student graduates with a $34,000 student loan debt.
As such, this college parents’ guide wouldn’t be complete without providing some financial advice. If you can get gauge what your tuition costs may be, you’re in a much better position to save accordingly. Starting a 529 account represents an excellent start, and you can find some other useful strategies in this Student Success Stories book.
A student who knows the value of a college education is much more likely to work harder to get in to a higher education institution. Make college the expectation in your household and don’t be afraid to discuss potential careers with your children. Especially if their ideal career requires a college degree, be sure to emphasize the value of a college education. You can also help your children develop useful study habits by scheduling regular study times each afternoon. By framing college as a helpful way to achieve their future goals, you are setting the course for your kids.
Ideally, your children should be the ones enjoying and taking ownership of the college application process. Don’t push them to attend a particular school or email the admissions officers asking for regular application updates. Admissions officers often cringe when they read these types of emails and it won’t do much for your child’s application status. Attending college will naturally make your children become more independent as they start to wash their own clothes and cook their own meals. The more that you can let them have their say in the college planning process, the more likely they will positively surprise you.
This parent guide to college planning wouldn’t be complete without listing what not to do. In the midst of the college admissions frenzy, some parents get a little too caught up and start to push their kids too hard. For example, forcing your kids to do too many Honors and AP classes could lead to stress and anxiety.
An important tip here is to establish a proper line of communication with your teen about what type of schedule they can maintain. Ideally, you’ll strike that balance between encouraging hard work but not pushing them to the extreme. For more on how to properly strike this balance, the Student Success Stories book at just $7.99 has a ton of great ideas.
As your child navigates the pathway to college, the urge to compare notes with other students and their parents is compelling. Though there is comfort if commiserating with others about the struggles and sharing the successes along the way, try not to judge or make direct comparisons between your child’s ideas, choices, and progress and others’. Everyone’s experience is just as valid as it is different. The most important thing to remember is that there is a good-fit college out there for every college-bound student.