“College is one of the most complex and expensive purchases one makes”
Breaking Ranks: How the Ranking Industry Rules Higher Education & What to Do About It By Colin Diver
If you are the parent of a senior (as I am), there is a good chance you are spending the month of April visiting colleges, attending accepted student days, weighing financial aid offers and talking to your student about their choices. This is not an easy business. You are weighing a large decision on not only the nuts and bolts of an education and the cost involved, but a choice that rings deep in your heart. There are so many facets that factor into this decision and I think that the deepest one under them all is this-will my kid be ok? That is really all we want as parents at the end of the day. Here are some tips as you walk through this jungle on your way to a May 1 deposit:
- $$$-Take paper to pencil and write down the room/board/tuition. Do not include books, travel or personal expenses. Once you have that princely sum, subtract any scholarships or grants. Do not include loans in this number. If travel to and from the school requires airfare, add in what you think the annual costs will be. Take this number and multiply it by four. This is the four-year cost for your child before any tuition increases. Do this for each college your child is considering. When your family sees the four-year costs at each institution, it will provide important data that could influence the final choice.
2. Distance-Revisit the idea of distance. It is easy for a 10th or 11th grader to believe that they want to go to college on the other side of the country. It is an entirely different thing to actually do it. They will be making this move in about four months. As this becomes reality they might have a change of heart. Evaluate this aspect and make sure that your child (and you!) are comfortable traveling a significant distance, especially in light of the pandemic over the last two years.
3. Major-If your child thinks they know what they want to study, take a deep look at the program that each school offers. This may impact the final decision.
4. Mum is the word-When your child returns from a visit, or you are traveling home from an accepted students day, say nothing. I have no doubt that you will have opinions, possibly strong opinions, you might even feel panicked at the prospect of your child attending a specific school. But I beg you, to say nothing and be aware of your body language too; just remain neutral. If your child wants to talk, you should listen, otherwise, say nothing. Allow 24-48 hours for the dust to settle and then talk about it.
5. Boundaries-If your child is still deciding in late April, it might be all you think about. You might be mulling the choices over in your head 24/7 and have pros and cons lists lying all over your house. Do not bombard them with your thoughts, which might be going around your head like a ticker tape. I suggest you only discuss this at designated times. Take your senior out to dinner and limit the conversation to when you are out.
As you child thinks about their options, remember this quote from Colin Diver’s new book, Breaking Ranks: How the Ranking Industry Rules Higher Education & What to Do About It:
“Unlike apples and oranges, or refrigerators and cars, college is not simply a short-term consumption activity. It is a long-term investment in human capacity—the ability to do financially, socially, emotionally, and even spiritually rewarding work; to teach oneself and others how to learn, adjust and adapt; to analyze, reason, evaluate and create; to appreciate beauty, ingenuity, order, complexity and subtlety.”
These words define why your child is going to college and can help guide your family to a good decision. Good luck!