After students make their final college choice, parents’ emotions often fluctuate widely and frequently. There may be sadness that their child will soon leave, pride over the child’s growth and independence, worry over his or her ability to act responsibly, anxiety about completing the required enrollment steps and excitement over the freedom the parents themselves will experience.
However you feel about your student’s imminent college enrollment, you can be his or her biggest support system.
Make sure your student knows what to do when and how.
Your student will need to return his or her acceptance of admission and possibly acceptance of financial aid, sign up for orientation, submit deposits for tuition and housing, and submit transcripts and other documents. More and more, students are able to create an online account on the school’s website and do this electronically.
You can help by keeping dates from the admissions or acceptance packet where they can be easily seen and referenced by you both, whether that is on the refrigerator, a family calendar or bulletin board, an electronic calendar or over the bathroom mirror.
Be ready to validate the decision.
Your student may suddenly question whether he or she made the right choice. Be prepared to provide reminders about why he or she chose the school as well as your faith in his or her ability to thrive at this school. Ask your student to keep an open mind; sometimes the very thing he or she is most worried about — roommates, difficult classes, distance from home — turn out to be either no big deal or the best thing about college. Sometimes it may also help to remind your child that if the school just doesn’t work out after a semester or a year, transferring is very common and easy to do.
Have “the” talk (about finances).
Now that the final decision has been made and you know the first year’s cost and financial aid your student has been awarded, map out finances for the rest of your student’s college career. Expect tuition and fees to increase each year. Consider which scholarships and grants will be renewed and which will only be renewed based on certain conditions, such as a minimum GPA. Think about whether your own income and ability to contribute will increase over that time. Help your student understand the total financial commitment and the options for reducing and repaying debt.
Get your own access.
Once your student has an online account set up, there may be an option to for him or her to designate you to view bills and payments, receive notifications and perform other limited functions. Maintaining your own account allows you to handle common transactions while leaving the responsibility of checking college mail, accessing class notes and information, and monitoring grades with your student.
Build your own support group.
Many schools offer parent and alumni organizations, which often have their own websites, social media groups, newsletters, events and programs. Look for these groups and sign up. This is your chance to get other parents’ perspective and connect with others who are facing the same experience.
Your child will soon be doing laundry, making big and small financial decisions, responsible for class attendance and studying, making doctor’s appointments and filling prescriptions, and a host of other tasks independently. Make a list of common activities and help your student check each off between now and the day he or she leaves for college.
Help, but don’t do.
Just as you could only help your child learn to ride a bike, not do it for him or her, now is a time to provide assistance without actually performing tasks for your student. Be the guiding hand as your student finds balance and begins to gain momentum on his or her own.
By: Iowa Student Loan