How to Get Involved in Your Teen’s College Search

These days, the prospect of going to college is not reserved only for the privileged few. Students
don’t have to exist within the circle of the wealthy elite in order to continue their education, earn a
degree, and increase their chances for gainful employment and the opportunity to advance in the
workplace. And yet, getting into college and staying the course is no cake walk. With competition high
for admission to most schools, even good grades, extracurricular activities, charity work, and a killer
essay are no guarantee of acceptance, especially if your teen is set on a prestigious school. While they
may not want to listen to the advice of his or her parents, it is your duty to do what you can to help find
the school that is right for them. So here are just a few ways you might get involved in the search.

The first thing to consider is that selecting a school will be, in most cases, his or her first choice as an adult.
As such, you don’t want to interfere too much. That said, you also can’t sit on the sidelines and let them
make a horrible decision that could ruin the rest of their life. You might not be able to stop them, but you
can certainly voice your concerns. And if you happen to be footing the bill for the college experience,
you definitely shouldn’t let anyone go off half-cocked and apply to the university their best friend or boy/girlfriend is attending when it doesn’t have a strong program for their major, for example. Your teen may be headstrong, but that doesn’t mean you can let them take the reins and ride off into oblivion.

So what can you do? It’s a fine line most parents must walk between seeing to the best interests
of their kids and allowing them the latitude to explore and learn for themselves, and although this
may be the last real decision you make as a parent, it’s your teen’s first as an adult. So your role starts
with listening. Find out what s/he wants to do or if he even has an idea about what they want to major in. Then ask him to divulge any schools s/he’s interested in. If s/he’s going to make an informed decision s/he needs to be accountable, so start by making them research the programs offered by any campus s/he’s interested in. S/He may end up asking for your help in the process, in which case you should certainly participate.

You’ll find there are all kinds of resources designed to help you in your quest to find the perfect
college search, such as talking to school counselors or reading rankings. But once you’ve narrowed down
the list to just a few contenders, your best bet is to arrange trips to the top schools your teen is
considering. This could serve as a bonding experience before your chick flies the coop, while also
helping you and your teen to select a campus that will serve his best interests. Of course, it may
come down to them choosing a school that you don’t agree with, for whatever reason (cost, location,
reputation, etc.), at which point you’ll have to decide how much you want to contribute (and s/he’ll
have to decide how badly he wants it). But whether he ends up at a private school like Pepperdine, a large campus like Texas A&M, or even an accredited online school, you can help them to make a decision that works for and support them throughout the process…at least on an emotional level.


  1. I dont even want to consider looking for colleges but realistically we only have a few more years!

  2. My husband was awesome at helping my step son look for colleges. They visited at least half a dozen of the ones he seriously considred and went on the tours, did research etc. Even though he had above a 4.0 grade point average, had the highest ACT score in his class, did all kinds of volunteer work and was a 3rd degree black belt.. he didn’t get a complete full ride anywhere. He was offered full tuition, a couple places.. but no room/board – which equals about as much as tuition. So be sure to save your pennies, (nickels, dimes and mostly dollars! lol)

  3. Oy…almost ready to start looking into life after high school for my JR. Printing this and adding it to my list of resources!

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