It is that time of the year to choose the right university–when high school kids and their parents are freaking out over the board exam results, entrance exams—done and forthcoming—and finally, picking the appropriate courses. And for the lucky ones who get admission into multiple colleges, there’s the problem of deciding which one to pick. This involves a lot of research—that too, within a limited timeframe.
When my son finished high school four years ago, his classmates seemed pretty driven and sure about what they wanted to do–but he was uncertain about what he would choose as he enjoyed all subjects equally. One thing he was sure of was this: no engineering courses. But yes, he was interested in the pure sciences. He wrote all the requisite entrance tests, though, just so he’d be in the loop. While waiting for the results, he enrolled in a college, just in case.
It is a tough and confusing time for both parents and kids. On one side, while parents do have a role, they must recognize that there is a fine line between helping in choosing the right university and a great degree–and actually meddling in their life.
Of course, we’ve all heard of families that pressurize their kids into doing what they think they should be doing with no concern for what the kid would like to do. We were determined to be the kind of parents who did not do that. So, we told our son that he was free to choose whatever he wanted—and we’d do our best to support him. The goal was to let him choose a higher education—the first important decision in his lif–that would shape his future career prospects, interests, and friendships!
To begin with, here are 10 ways parents can be emotionally supportive while helping their teens choose the right university
1. Be a strong source of support
Picking that college is so exciting. But it is also super-stressful for your teen. Parents must be supportive, rather than add pressure to an already difficult situation. Show them that you believe in their ability to choose and assure them you will support them.
2. Don’t steal their joy by comparing them to others
Sadly, this is something parents tend to do even without realizing it. Don’t draw comparisons between your teen’s choices and their friends. Each child is special with her own passions and interests and must be allowed to follow her path and shine.
3. Avoid nagging your teen
Some parents constantly nag their kids about their college choice. In fact, it is the sole topic of conversation. While it is okay to check in to find out what’s happening since the whole process has a deadline, there’s no need to make it the only thing to talk about. If you can’t help talking about it, let it be positive and reassuring for your kid.
4. Take time to find out what your teen wants
Yes, this is repetitive but very important. Considering that your teen will be the one actually taking the course and probably studying on campus, help them weigh the pros and cons so they can decide the right fit for them. Be supportive, and listen.
5. Discuss location
While some teens are happy about going to a college far from home, some prefer one that’s close to home. So, consider that. Then again, they may change their mind—so make sure you are there to support them. I remember how our son absolutely insisted on choosing a college that was close to home. But in two months, he was quite happy about his admission to a university 2600 miles away!
6. Do your own research
Two heads are better than one. Now that you know what your teen wants to do, do your own research based on their needs. What are the options? Which universities and opportunities meet your teen’s career goals? It is likely that you will find information that will help your teen readjust her goals. Processes are constantly changing and it is time to get up to speed. Visit the university’s website and reviews online. Talk to your own networks. All the while, keep your mind open.
7. Use the internet to choose a university
Thanks to technology, the internet can be a great source of information on just about anything you want. In this instance, you can help your teen gather the information she wants to choose the right university. For example, if she’s interested in architecture she can look at pages about top student housing architects OZ. Start the process early so that she can figure out what she wants by the time she has to make a decision.
8. Visit colleges with your teen
This is important. It’s one thing to rely on reputation, but quite another to physically visit the place. Consider the fit—academics, extracurricular activities, campus culture. So, visit the colleges you have shortlisted. Ask questions. Talk to the people you meet there. This will give your teen a chance to see how their life will be like. You can even check out the local fraternities if this is something of importance. When our son received his admit card into the course of his choice, he had the option to pick from five different locations. He chose the one farthest away because he liked that campus culture and the math department best. I had secretly wished he’d choose the one closest home, but . . . we chose to support his choice.
9. Help your teen Make Financial Decisions
Education is the best investment you can make for your teen. The rewards are huge. However, since one of the crucial things about choosing a college is dealing with the related expenses, it is time to discuss it with your teen. Education is more expensive than ever now. Unfortunately, most parents cannot afford to pay for everything; so student loans might be necessary. Discuss affordability while shortlisting and choosing the right university or college. Talk about whether you will be contributing financially, whether the university is within your budget, what scholarship opportunities are available, types of student loans, grants, etc. Help your teen learn everything about the expenses involved.
10. Guiding your teen
At the end of the day, this is by far the most important thing about helping your teen choose an education. She must be fully comfortable about discussing this with you. How you communicate matters. Remember that asking questions and sharing feelings can always help with making correct choices in the future. Have patience and always listen, listen, listen. Point out to opportunities they may have overlooked. Support them through the application process.
All parents naturally what the best for their children and the best way to help them choose the right university is to be supportive. Once they make the choice, do the following:
- Reassure them that they will do well and that you are just a phone call away
- Keep communication open, always
- Let them understand that college is different from school and help them plan their daily routine.
- Help them get their things together – laptop, mobile phone, other things to personalize their space
- Talk to them about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and managing a budget.
Wishing your teens a bright future!
P.S.: Enjoy the time you have with them now. You’ll be glad you did!