College Search Process Advice for Parents
The college search process is an exciting time for both parents and students. It is what parents had hope to prepare their child for; ensuring they have met all the education requirements for graduation in the class room and if an athlete on the field or in the gym.
If lucky and offered by the child’s high school advance or college credit classes to get a head start in college and to save some money. Hopefully this process has prepared them for the independence and further development into adulthood. It is imperative to select a school that your child can learn in a positive and supportive learning environment.
The college search process can be a daunting one. It takes communication, honesty and in-depth research. Communication between parent and child is so important during this time. Both parties must have a mutual respect for the other’s opinion whether they agree or not. Choosing a college will be one of the most important decisions in someone’s life. It’s necessary to be honest about feelings and to be picky. This place will be your home for the next four years and you want to feel as comfortable as possible. Finally, I cannot stress this enough, do your research.
Over the years, my relationship with my parents has grown exponentially. They’ve been there through all the growing pains and have allowed me to grow into the independent young woman I am while being supportive, but not overbearing. I couldn’t have done the college search process without them, let alone these last four years.
I reached out to my mom and asked what were factors she considered during the college search process and what she remembered from it.
“Factors we considered: distance from home, school reputation, school financial strength and endowment, student population, class size majors and minors offered, tuition cost (don’t overpay for undergraduate; cost should be in line with the degree the student selects based upon potential earning power with degree), scholarship opportunities, acceptance rate, graduation rate, diversity and opportunities to study abroad and campus atmosphere (local community). And opportunities to pursue a master’s degree.”
Transitioning from the safe secure home of a parent to college can be overwhelming for both. After preparing a checklist of all the things to look for when selecting a college (tuition, distance from home, major, minor, scholarship opportunities, etc.), it is finally time to make a decision.
“That time for me was six years ago with my son and three years ago for my daughter. The selection process was different this time for them vs when I went to college. I didn’t look until I was a senior in high school so I didn’t really pursue options. I only looked once and selected the school that offered me a full scholarship. This time was different since I was parent. I had mixture of emotions. I knew that I wanted them to have the on-campus experience. I also knew from my experience that it had to be a place they felt comfortable. My first big surprise was the enormous cost of college. I had prepared a matrix of all the good factors but the tuition cost blew me away. It felt like a punch in the stomach looking at the tuition cost for all the schools. I was able to obtain a scholarship due to my academics and family financial need.”
“My children however only had one side of the equation, high academics but no financial need according to the college calculator due to my husband and I income levels. It was devastating to realize that we hadn’t saved enough and he couldn’t look nationally as I had always told him. He had been talking about college since the fifth grade. I felt like I took one of his dreams away. I cried that night for my son with the knowledge that I would have to tell him that he could select the college of his dream because we hadn’t saved enough. We had to scaled down the selection process. I can still see the disappointment in his eyes as he tried to cover and say it was okay.”
“My daughter was a little different she wanted her independence but she wasn’t really ready to leave home. She skimmed the topic until her junior year of college. I again felt like I cheated her because we had to tell her that she would need to stay within a five-hour radius of home due to the cost of college and travel cost. We had to explain the concept of not overpaying for an undergraduate degree so you can afford obtaining a master’s degree. We made a deal with both to share the cost of college so they would not graduate with a lot of debt. Top school of choice changed to where can you obtain a scholarship at a school with your major that you feel comfortable.”
“My advice to parents is to be realistic about what you can afford even when you save early. The cost of college is high and we don’t help our kids by putting them into debt before they have a job and more importantly working towards a career they enjoy. Don’t overlook schools in your state or nearby states. In state tuition is of course cheaper and look for schools that offer regional tuition plans. That is one of the ways we found FHSU. School support is also important because we also wanted an atmosphere of inclusion so also look at the school’s demographics. We were surprised at Fort Hays student demographics since it is located in the middle of the country in western Kansas. We didn’t want our kids to be the only one of their race in the classes.”
“Ultimately to select the right school after considering all factors has to be the school the student feels like they can explore and grow into adulthood. Parents provide advice but it is one of the students first true adult choices. Don’t be afraid to press them on the choices. Take into consideration their needs and personality. Have a top three looking at various factors. Students have a tendency to change their minds about majors or playing sports. Ask why this school? What are your options if you are not selected or cost becomes a factor? Would you still attend if you couldn’t play the sport you love.”
“And most importantly listen to their needs, reasoning and fully support them. They will need it during the different phases of the college experience. They should know when doubts arise that you are always there for them. Your relationship will grow from, my baby left to I am proud of the young man / woman you have grown into.”
Hello my name is Carmen Fanning. I'm currently a senior in the ultrasound department at FHSU. Although my major is science, I’ve always enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember. My most enjoyable classes have always been English classes because of how it can be thought provoking and an outlet of emotions and information. I’m not a loud person, so it’s nice to put my thoughts into the world through writing. My other hobbies include roller skating, cooking, thrifting and reading. I hope to continue writing post graduation as an enjoyable hobby. I’ll be entering the health care field as ultrasound tech and will continue my degree at a hospital of my choosing. Not sure where yet, but I’m excited for the journey!