My son is in the first months of his sophomore year, and I’m so completely overwhelmed by all this college stuff that my head is spinning. I mean, we are just trying to make it through the year, but now we have his wide-open future to think about. And the time to start thinking is now—or so I’m told by other parents as well as what I’ve been reading online.
All of this talk makes me feel like I’m already behind where I should be in the college process. We haven’t planned any college visits, and he hasn’t expressed where he might like to go, despite the fact I’ve asked him a few times.
As his mother, I don’t want to fail him. I want to have all the tools to help him make the best decision that benefits him the most, but how do I get started? I don’t want to push him out of his childhood too soon, but I want him to be prepared.
Many parents that I talk to want to have a big part in their children furthering their education. But they want to do it in a way that feels authentic to their child. How do we roll up our sleeves and find that happy medium so our child feels like they are the ones making the actual decisions, and we’re the ones on the sidelines supporting them?
There is so much that goes into this decision, from preparing our children for a college interview, to figuring out how to pay for college without crippling ourselves with mountains of debt or having our kids take out tens of thousands of dollars in student loans.
There is paperwork to weed through and research to do, and the mental labor is taxing for us and our kids.
This process seems more involved than it was in the early ’90s when I went to school. This is adding to my feelings of falling behind. Those were the days of doing a few college visits towards the end of your junior year, or in your senior year of high school. Then we’d take the SATs and apply to a few schools of our choice and one “safety” school.
I went to visit a few schools with a friend of mine and her mother because we both wanted to stay in the New England area in the fall of our senior year. I also went on another trip with my mother later that same winter. I didn’t feel anxious or like I had to hurry up and decide before it was too late, and I’ve noticed a huge change in what is expected of teenagers today.
These days, I hear about high school students trying to get as many college courses under their belt before they attend college. I know our teens are feeling more pressured and anxious than ever, and the expectation is higher than ever.
I’m thankful for all the resources out there to help me and my other mom friends navigate our way through the college process. We all want to do right by our kids.
What we need to remember is there are people and places we can reach out to in order to get the assistance and support we need. But also, we aren’t alone in feeling confused, stressed out, and like we want to throw our hands in the air and give up. Getting your child ready to head into their college years is overwhelming for all of us.
We may see an end in sight and realize the empty nest is coming soon, but our work is far from over. The last years of high school can be the toughest push yet, and it’s important to get educated, find the right support, and not feel isolated because you don’t have all the answers yet.
Remember, there is no dumb question except for the question you don’t ask, and we all have them when it comes to our child’s college education. That’s especially true these days when so much has changed since most of us attended college, prices are much higher, and going to college seems to be more of a process than it was when we attended.
Need Help with College Planning?
Hi, I’m Brad Baldridge, a college funding specialist and the owner of Taming the High Cost of College.
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You can also check out some of my useful college planning articles and resources below.
The 5 Key Components to a College Financial Plan
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The 5 Types of Federal Financial Aid
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The 20 Core Areas of College Planning
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The College Planning Jumpstart
Enroll in my video course to learn the best ways to plan and save for college, lower your costs, and create a winning college financial plan for your family.
Expected Family Contribution Calculator
Calculate your need-based financial aid eligibility based on federal formulas.