Positive Parenting During College Prep


Positive parenting is about guiding, not doing. The old adage that implies “teaching is more profitable than doing” holds true with your teenagers as well. It’s important to impress upon your children the importance of an education.

It’s not beneficial to ram a specific college down their throats and tell them if they want to attend college it will be your choice. That’s not parenting, that’s dictating. And while parenting requires a certain amount of rules, it does not benefit your child to force them into a decision that does not match up with their passion.

Teaching, not doing

If you take the time to teach your child how to apply for scholarships, how to apply for financial aid, and how to fill out a college application, you are teaching them to become independent. You are providing them with skills that will carry over into the job market and into their lives when they begin their own family. If you do it for them, they won’t learn anything and will continue to be dependent on you for other tasks as well.

I have a unique perspective in the college admissions process. As a parent, I’ve experienced all the frustration first-hand: the decisions about choices, the dilemma over financing, and the anxiety related to waiting for the final decisions.

What’s a mom to do?

When my daughter applied to colleges, we had an experience that is not unique but it’s a decision many parents and students face: which college is the best college. Case in point: my daughter’s decision to attend her “plan B or 2nd choice” college. After being accepted to her 1st choice/reach school, we waited for the financial aid award to arrive. In the meantime, awards from the other colleges she had applied to filtered in.

She was offered a full-ride scholarship at one school, 80% of her financial need was met at two of the other colleges with grants and scholarships, and some small grants and loans from the rest of her college choices. Her 1st choice college met 0% of her financial need. Her heart was broken.

Here is where parenting comes into play. She wanted to attend her 1st choice college–her heart was set on it. She had been dreaming of it her whole life and any other option was out of the question. But, in order to attend, it would require financing the expensive education with loans (student and parent). While every fiber in me wanted to say YES, my common sense knew it would be a financial disaster. I sat her down, explained why she couldn’t go to her dream college, and she listened (while crying, of course). It might have broken both our hearts at the time, but it was the BEST decision for her in the long run.

The right decision

To make a long story short, she fell in love with her Plan B college. It was smaller and offered a much better environment for her academically and socially. Most importantly, the college WANTED HER; as evidenced by their willingness to give her financial aid. They valued her contribution to the student body and from the moment she set foot on campus, she felt wanted. But the real payoff came when she graduated with only a small amount of college debt, being able to easily pay back the consolidated loans. Had she attended her 1st choice college, she would have graduated with close to $100,000 in debt, burdening her for years.

From a mom’s perspective

The college prep process is exacerbating, exciting, and exhausting for most of us. We stress for years about our kid’s college choices and senior year the stress level shoots through the roof. But if I can give you one tip, it’s to relax and enjoy the ride. Your kid’s college decision is less important than them graduating and being employable. What they feel is the most important decision in their life as teenagers, in the grand scheme of things, is less important than the financial one. Guiding them in this decision is the best (and the hardest) part of parenting.

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