Deciding on a college is one of the bigger decisions a young adult will face in his/her early life.

There are many choices and considerations involved in this process. It is easy to see why so many families stress out. Location, where friends are going, classes/majors offered at each school, activities offered on campus, career paths, and finances are among the many considerations to sort through. What can add to the stress is figuring out what part a parent(s) plays in this decision. That role is not clearly defined. It will be different from roles they have had in past decisions. Too much involvement can be met with resistance and resentment. Also, it may result in having the youth avoid some much-needed skill development in initiation and independence.  Too little input and deadlines could be missed.

As children get older a parent’s position in their child’s life gradually changes.

The transition from director/manager to coach/mentor seems to happen overnight. It becomes more obvious when discussion begins about deciding on a college. Aside from financial considerations, this choice in great part, lies with the youth.  Parents still play an integral role in this decision, but the final determination usually lies with the prospective student. We are including some suggestions that would be helpful in preparing for college.

An important concept to keep in mind is choosing a college does not necessarily mean deciding on a career. The idea of college and career being synonymous is something that will create more stress and pressure. Aside from a few select professions, career can be decided later. It can be helpful for both the parent and the young adult to know that almost a third of first time college students change their majors within three years of enrollment. About one in ten students change majors more than once (data). Another statistic to keep in mind is more than 50% of college graduates pursue careers that are not related to their major (data). Employers usually are more interested in a potential employee having a degree rather than a specific major.

Parents should educate themselves as much as possible about college entrance procedures.

The process of deciding on a school and the tasks involved, are a lot to absorb. There also may be some tasks that will be beyond the young adult’s comfort level and knowledge base. It would be more constructive to see your role as a co-pilot and fill in the gaps when you can. High school counselors and college admissions staff are wonderful resources to tap into.

High schools offer computer programs that enable students to research their college planning. Students simply enter their criteria they are looking for in a college into the program. After the data is entered, they are given a list of choices of colleges. Visits and tours to the prospective colleges can be arranged. These visits are important to get a good feel for the college.  Location (too far or too close to home), teacher student ratio, campus activities, types of majors offered, school size and freshmen retention rates are important impressions to consider for these visits. It can also help to know what the schools job placement rate is after graduation.

There are other areas with which parents can assist. The freshmen student is adjusting to a tremendous learning curve. In preparation for this, prior to leaving, parents can work on their child’s independence skills. Getting them to do their own laundry, learning the basics of banking and navigating public transportation are a few of the important skills to learn. Emphasis should be made on cooking and shopping. A healthy diet and teens are usually not synonymous. For some young adults, left to their own devices in monitoring their own diets does not lead to healthy diet choices. It is no wonder freshmen usually gain weight (known as the freshmen 15).

At some point parents must take their leap of faith and accept that they have done everything possible to prepare their child for college.

It is important that your child knows that not only do they have your support but confidence as well. Since parents will not have access to their grades, it is difficult to determine academic performance until the end of the semester.  Prior to that emotional check ins can help determine how well he/she is adjusting. Care packages (some colleges for a fee could have these set up for the entire college year) are usually nice ways parents could offer their support. If the adjustment is particularly rocky, students have free access to utilize the school’s counseling services. There may be some rough moments (especially the first few weeks) but once they settle into college, it could be one of the most rewarding experiences of their young lives.