To most parents, bringing a baby home from the hospital is both a terrifying and exciting experience. Wondering what to do with this tiny human and figuring out how to get enough sleep makes days seem endless.
Before you know it, that tiny human is off to school rocking a new backpack, shiny sneakers, and a lunchbox. Believe it or not, the time between kindergarten and college passes by in the blink of an eye. When the time comes, your relationship with your child will be at a fork in the road. Decisions made during this time will undoubtedly affect the trajectory of their life. With 5,300 colleges and universities and about 19.7 million students attending college in the fall of 2020, the decision can seem daunting. Don’t fret; we have compiled a list of common mistakes to avoid when helping your child choose a college.
Pitfall #1 Taking Over the Process
We all think we know what is best for our children, but don’t forget they are the ones going to college. It is important to have conversations about what your child wants and needs in a college. Maybe it is a certain degree program, location, or even extracurricular activities. Let your child drive the process, with you as a parent guiding them from the back seat. This is an opportunity for them to make some really important life decisions while still being under your protective wing. Get them involved.
Pitfall #2 Refusing Advice From Others
Mother and Father know best? Of course, you know your child better than anyone else. However, friends, family members, and educators can be phenomenal resources during the college search process. Getting someone else’s perspective on your child can help identify strengths in your child that you had not considered.
The internet is also a great resource. Yes, there is a lot of misinformation out there — but there is also a lot of great information if you know where to look. The library is also full of books that discuss the admissions process. Don’t forget about college fairs during which people can ask questions about college life, admissions, and particular degree programs.
Pitfall #3 Ignoring the Cost of College
A two-year or four-year degree can come with a large price tag. For this reason, you should not ignore the total cost of a college education when you begin the college search. That being said, you should also be careful not to eliminate schools just because they have a large price tag. Most colleges provide some sort of financial aid. Also, there are plentiful scholarships if you know where to look and pay attention to application deadlines.
Pitfall #4 Failing to Visit Campus
Stepping foot on a college campus is an excellent way to get a feel for a college community. Of course, over the past year, COVID-19 has affected the ability to visit college campuses and interact with current students. Many students have picked colleges without ever stepping foot on campus.
The global pandemic forced college admissions offices to adapt. Nearly every college and university now offer some form of a virtual tour or virtual seminar. Certainly, the best way to see if a college is right for your child is to get on campus and walk around. If this isn’t possible or feasible, visit a local college that is similar in size to the school you can’t visit. Another option is to take advantage of a virtual tour or information session. If this is the only way you can see a college, remember that marketing departments are in charge of these presentations. They want their college to stand out.
Pitfall #5 Choosing a College Based Solely on Ranking or Reputation
U.S. News and World Report, Forbes, and Niche are all organizations that rank colleges based on various characteristics. While rankings and lists are beneficial during the college search process, relying on rankings can eliminate excellent choices from your search. The reason? Many of these lists are subjective and may not even include all colleges and universities in their rankings.
However, these lists can be beneficial. You might find a school that matches all your criteria that you would not have discovered otherwise. You can also find lots of data from which to compare schools like SAT/ACT scores and average class size. Also, these lists give you a general idea of the reputation of each school. Instead of focusing on the ranking alone, take into account all the information provided when making a college choice.
Going to college is an important step in the life of your child. Hopefully, you’ll be able to avoid these common pitfalls as you begin that college choice process.