5 Things Parents Should Do to Help Their Child Pick a College


Are you wondering how you can best help your child decide which college or university to attend? Here are our suggestions for five ways you can be of assistance.

Decision Day

College decisions are difficult for students and parents alike. Picking a college to attend is an important decision with potentially far-reaching repercussions, and all parties want to make sure the right decision is made. Thankfully, parents don't have to stand by idly as their child navigates this crucial choice. Here are five things you can - and should - do to help your child pick a college.

A father and son meet with a school advisor

1. Ask Guiding Questions

When your teen is thinking about which college to pick, it's very likely he or she is being exposed to influences that differ from your own. For example, your child might be focused on which schools his or her friends are going to, how good the parties and Greek system are, and other similar social factors. While these are important things to think about, be sure to draw your child's attention to other questions that will help him or her understand the full college picture. Ask your child:

  • Which academic programs will help you reach your career goals?
  • How big are class sizes? Will it be difficult to register for the classes you want?
  • What is the likelihood you'll be able to graduate within your intended time frame?
  • What programs and assistance will you be eligible for? Will you receive tutoring, advising, and career guidance?
  • How far from home are you willing to go? What level of independence are you ready for?

The more of these types of questions you ask, the more likely your child will be to make a well-informed, carefully considered college choice.

2. Discuss College Costs

Something that your child may have forgotten to think about during this whirlwind process is the cost of college. But, as you well know, it might end up being a deciding or even prohibitive factor. Make sure that you have a serious conversation with your child about the differences in cost among the types of colleges he or she is considering. If the list contains a mix of public, private, and out-of-state universities, the difference in tuition costs will be significant. Especially if they will be relying on student loans, the college your child picks will have a financial impact for many years to come.

A jar with money saving up for college

3. Reach Out to Alumni (and Current Students)

As an adult with a wide network of (potentially) college-educated people, you're in a unique position to help your child find alumni to speak to. Take some time to find out if any of your friends, acquaintances, or co-workers have experience with any of the colleges your child is considering, or if any of them have children who have attended or do attend these schools. There's no better, more trustworthy review than one that comes from people who have had the experience themselves. It's likely your child will find speaking to these people a valuable step in picking a college.

4. Go on a Tour

Once your child has narrowed down his or her list of potential schools to the ones of most interest, it's time to go on a tour. College tour trips might be expensive and perhaps even inconvenient, but they're crucial and not to be missed. A student shouldn't be expected to pick a place to live for the next four or more years without first seeing it in person and developing a feel and sense of the campus. While touring colleges, make sure that you:

  • Take the official campus tour.
  • Talk to students and professors.
  • Check out the dorms, academic buildings, dining commons, and bookstore.
  • Meet with the admissions department and chair of your child's intended major.

Students tour a college building

5. Support and Celebrate the Final Decision

If you help in all of these ways, you can be confident that whatever college your child ultimately picks will be a well thought-out and carefully considered choice. Once your child has reached a decision, the most important thing is to be supportive, even if he or she didn't choose your alma mater, or decided to go further from home than you were hoping. Your attitude toward your child's college pick can have an after-the-fact influence on how he or she feels about the decision - that's why it's important to share in, rather than detract from, your teen's excitement and happiness. As much as this choice affects you, don't forget that this is your child's moment. Celebrate it together.

Check out Study.com's hundreds of college and university reviews to help you learn about the schools on your child's list.

By Daisy Rogozinsky
September 2018
k-12 parent tips

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