Role and Responsibilities of the Parent
Parents, use this process to help your child develop into one of those confident decision-makers I wrote about last week. Several key decisions have to be made in order for them to go to college. It’s your job to encourage them, to help them, but to let them make the decisions. If your child balks at their first chance to make a big decision, gently push them along.
As you hear your child talk about majors and what school(s) they might like to attend (if they don’t start this conversation, you need to start it with them), you’ll start to get a feel for what they’re thinking, how much they’re thinking, and how deeply they’re thinking about this subject. If they express aspirations of becoming a doctor, but are not performing well in biology class, a conversation is in order. If Harvard is on their wish list of colleges but they’re having trouble graduating, they either need to re-assess or come up with a pretty involved plan to accomplish that goal.
Early in the process, ask them what they and their friends are thinking about majors and colleges (it may be easier for them to talk about what others are saying or doing. It should give you a window into where they’re coming from). If they haven’t set up a way to organize the information they’ll be receiving, as well as what they’re thinking, help them set something up (“Organizing your College Selection Process” at www.collegeanswerguy.com).
I’m not suggesting you “correct” their thinking, only direct it – ensure they know exactly what’s required to accomplish their goals, get a feel for what information they are basing their opinions and decisions on. Ask how you should plan for visiting colleges, and explain any financial limitations. When you do go visit schools, talk ahead of time about questions they need to ask.
Ask how you can help with the college selection process. Give your honest opinion and input when asked. Help them remember deadlines and plan ahead to meet those deadlines. Have a series of conversations about college expenses, available financial resources, your expectations for their involvement in paying for college, and how all of those factors play into their college decision.
Go to orientation and enrollment, but plan to participate in the parent sessions. Most of all, plan to stay out of their way, and especially, stay away from enrollment. Let them make the decisions about what classes to take and when. If you have questions about their schedule later, discuss it with them and allow them to seek answers or discuss any potential changes with their advisor.
Challenge them to make the decisions, then support their efforts to do so.
I also wrote an article detailing the Role and Responsibilities of Students.
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