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How to Help Your Child Choose a College

A famous pastor compared the giving of a precious daughter to some young man in marriage to handing a prized Stradivarius violin to an orangutan. Can you trust this largely unknown boy with your precious princess? Parents may feel some kind of an emotional equivalent when entrusting their beloved son or daughter to an institution, its values/philosophy, and its training. Undoubtedly, higher education will change them… for better or for worse. We might even feel that it serves as an exam for us of our parenting and how well we have prepared them for life. So, what should we know?

Guide the process with their participation

The parental mentality that says, “She’s 18 so I can’t really tell her much” really misses the point: She’s 18! In most cases you will probably have lived at least twice her years —and have the accompanying experience. High school counselors recommend going beyond “shoo-in” schools (that virtually guarantee acceptance) and selecting one or two “reach” schools that may seem more competitive in relation to your child’s academic record. So taking his or her strengths, weaknesses, desires, and dreams into account you try to come up with three to five school options that will challenge and stretch them without discouraging them, or hurting them physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Weigh the choices with them, but do not sign off on a school about which you have serious reservations. Now, how do you come up with the options?

Do your parental homework

In real estate the axiom “Location! Location! Location!” serves as the key to valuable properties. In choosing a university we suggest “Research! Research! Research!” Check the U.S. News and World Report university rankings. Ask around. Don’t just stop at academics. Go to the school’s website and check out the student life activities (lectures, concerts, physical fitness). These also contribute to their college experience.

Go to the actual campus if possible and do some impromptu interviews. Research a school’s hazing record online. (Did you know that fraternities and sororities collect money for legal fees?) Talk to recent alumni. Learn all you can about your options (and also consider unlikely prospects). Once the acceptance letters come in, it’s time to choose!

Paying for college

The cost of tuition at U.S. colleges and university has skyrocketed over the last few decades. Whether high prices guarantee quality or not, the College Board projects that tuition will increase by about 5 percent each year. Thankfully, countless options exist to help finance a college education. For example, education savings plans can help you set aside funds long before your child gets to college. In addition, Collegeboard.org offers a search that matches scholarships with the student’s profile, including scholarships for athletes, minorities, writers and other more unusual scholarships designed for left-handed high school seniors, and applicants with natural red hair. Federal student loans offer an enticing alternative; but make sure to speak to your child about the long-term commitment of loans.

Pick a school that will teach them how to gather, think about, test, and use information

Years ago I heard that no department head of any major university believes in absolutes or absolute truth. When we consider that the Bible and Jesus claim absolute and authoritative truth, we have an automatic conflict. So we pick a school that will teach them how–rather than what–to think. Students should learn how to gather pertinent information (research), organize it logically and creatively (think), test it for truthfulness (evaluate), and use it (apply). (Come Let us Reason by Norman Geisler will help a lot.) So… pray and choose wisely!

Conclusion

Guiding your child in the selection process, doing your own homework, looking at financing options and choosing wisely will help place your prospective student in the proper educational environment. Yes, a school will ultimately pick them through the process of application and acceptance. But, your role precedes theirs. And, for the believer, trusting God through the entire process will guide and guard you through the whole endeavor. Check out and practice Proverbs 3:5-6. See you at school!