I was the ninth child in my family to attend college, and my youngest brother followed me two years later. Although it was years ago, I can recall each sibling moving out of the house and onto campus. It seemed to have a natural rhythm, as if we were birds leaving the nest. All a bit reluctant and timid at first, only to return home for the summer nine months later more confident, more responsible, more resilient. Sending my children to college took on the same rhythm because it’s a timeless ritual of transitioning from childhood to young adult. Read on for wisdom passed on through the generations.
Help your student select a college
While the final college decision should be your student’s, they certainly need guidance along the way. Help your student answer the questions below to determine the pros and cons of each school they’re considering.
- Academic program – does the college offer the program I need, or will I have to transfer to a different school?
- Affordability – can my family afford the college, or will it put us in a financial bind?
- Student loans required – how much student debt will be required? Will I be able to easily repay the loans based on my desired profession and estimated future salary?
- Distance from home – is the college so close to home that I won’t feel independent? Is it so far from home that I can only return for winter and summer breaks?
- College environment – do I like the city where the college is located? Is there plenty to do on the weekends so I can meet new friends, or is it a suit-case campus that clears out on the weekend?
Figure out how to pay for college
Have an honest conversation with your senior about how much you are willing to contribute to their college expenses, including the amount you might borrow in PLUS Loans. Financial planners caution parents about spending too much on their kid’s college, especially if it puts the parents in a bad financial situation.
Teach some basic skills
Teach your student how to do their own laundry, make simple meals, monitor their bank accounts, change a tire, make a doctor’s appointment, and write an email suitable for a college professor. If your child can already do these tasks, let them get some practice now. Perhaps they could make dinner once a week, do all their own laundry, and demonstrate their money management skills. In a few short months they will need to perform all of these tasks without your help.
Rethink post-graduation house rules
After your child graduates from high school, it’s time to loosen the reigns a bit to help them transition to college life. If they plan to live on campus, they will soon experience a lot of freedom, even if that means freedom to make bad choices. The summer before college can often be a difficult time for parents and seniors because both are trying to navigate a new reality. Your child is now a young adult who wants more freedom, but they still live in your home which carries responsibilities to the family. It’s a delicate balancing act, but a necessary transition into adulthood.
Plan an awesome graduation party
You don’t need to spend a lot to mark your child’s graduation, but it is an occasion worth celebrating. Party food, cake, balloons, and being surrounded and honored by family and friends is a great way to close the book on high school and encourage your child as they take the next big step to adulting.