How to Help Your Child Find the Perfect School

College freshman moves into her dormIt's hard to believe, but the time has finally come. After years of guiding your children through homework and teaching good study habits, you are now ready to guide them through what will be their most important educational challenge – deciding what to do after graduating high school.

Find the Right Program, College or University

If you haven't been through the process before with an older child, you may have lots of questions about just how you can get started. Here are some helpful suggestions:

  • Talk to your child about their interests and passions. Your child may already have ideas about what they would like to be when they grow up. This can help guide the college search. For example, if your child wants to work with animals, you can look at schools with good veterinary programs.
  • Determine the budget. How will your child pay for a post-secondary education? Will you finance the cost of their education or will they have to take out student loans? Be sure to have open discussions with your child about what you will provide and what they must provide from a financial perspective.
  • Let your child choose the programs or schools where they want to apply. Keep in mind that some schools may offer scholarships and other financial assistance, so don't always be turned away by cost. Your child should also have a say about whether they wish to live away or commute to school, or how far they want to live away from home. Once they have a list of schools, ask them to prioritize it.
  • Arrange a school tour. Take time to visit each school on the list with your student.
  • Keep track of important deadlines. If your child is interested in applying to a college or university, be sure to remind them about important application and scholarship deadlines, and submission requirements.
  • Make sure your child has taken the SATs and other required tests. If you want to increase your child's chances of getting accepted to the school of their choice, you may want to enroll them in a test preparation program or hire a tutor for them. Even if your child is not interested in attending a college or university, taking the SATs will keep more options available as graduation nears.
  • Don't listen to other parents. It's no secret that parents like to share the accomplishments of their children, such as the "top" colleges their kids will attend. Don't be swayed by decisions of other parents. The best school for your child is the one that meets his or her needs and your family's budget.
  • Let your child take the lead. Your role as a parent should be to accompany your child on this journey; not to lead it. Let your child make the important decisions. Be there to support them and to help them consider all aspects of their decision.

While choosing a post-secondary education can be a bittersweet experience, it does provide a great opportunity for your child to start making informed "well-educated" decisions on their own.