As a parent, you are going to put everything into getting your child to the correct place, no question.  However, it’s very important for you and your child to understand that even with all of the time and energy you put in to this very important decision, if you find that a change needs to be made after your child has given the school or program enough time, sometimes with more information, it is more than fair to change your mind.  This attitude may take the pressure off.  Works toward the right decision and if you need to make a change, well then you will and then move on.

    Where to start when coming up with the list, is to look for schools that have programs that your child has an interest in.  A friend who graduated from an Ivy League school and then went on to medical school gave one of our kids this piece of advice, “apply to three types of schools, one you know you will get in to, one that you are pretty sure and a stretch school.”  Also, consider three sizes of schools if looking at traditional colleges/universities, a large state school, a medium school and a small school.  Traditional colleges/universities are either public or private.  Consider both.  A State school is usually less in cost, however, smaller, private schools, sometimes have more opportunities for scholarships.  If considering a trade school whether it is a technological, medical or speciality cosmetology, massage therapy, automotive, building trades or any other skilled certification, do your homework.  Do some research as to what type of training and certification is required  for your son or daughter to do the type of work they hope to pursue.  Find someone who has a job in their area of interest.  Arrange a meeting to ask questions and possibly even spend a reasonable amount of time shadowing, always be respectful of the mentor’s time.  They most likely will have some valuable information and may be able to point you in the right direction for appropriate preparation for a career in this area. Once you start your research one thing usually leads to another and you will probably find that people are very helpful.  Inquire to see if your child may be a candidate for a ‘non-certified’ position either paying job internship so that your child can explore to see if they like this field.  For example, if you have a child that has an interest in cosmetology, see if they can get a position as a hairdressers assistant, or a receptionist in a salon.  This gives your child an opportunity to explore all positions in their area of interest.   Trade school or college/university the time invested in their area of interest is time well spent.

     Reassure your child that if they don’t get into a school that really the school may have done them a favor.  To be stressed constantly and to feel that you, academically, are barely there, might not allow for enjoying the college experience.

    Equally important as the program your child will study is an opportunity for adequate social development.  For many kids, post high school education is a child’s first experience away from home.  Whether your child is in a dorm or an apartment, it’s important for them to learn to ‘adult’ as in doing their laundry, making sure that they have adequate nutrition and sleep.  This sounds like a ‘no brainer” but for many kids it is a big adjustment when Mom or Dad are usually the one doing the laundry and preparing meals.  Encourage your child to respect their roommate by keeping their part of the room/apartment clean and organized and making sure they do their part in house keeping duties, taking out the trash/cleaning the bathroom, etc.

    If continuing to live at home after high school graduation while working or pursuing education/training, keep in mind that your son or daughter is now an adult and should be treated that way.  Respect goes both ways.  Taking on some responsibilities around the house should be expected of them and letting you know when they will be home for dinner and where they are.  If they are living in your home, they need to communicate when they will be home this is just being courteous and for safety purposes.  Encourage your child to have social activities on the weekend to look forward to with a likeminded community of friends.  Social activity is part of any well rounded person as well as something to do for their physical and mental health.  Joining a health club or taking part in physical activities that the school has to offer on their campus if this is offered.

      Once you make your list of schools, read as much as possible about the school.  Have your child do online searches, look at the school website and check out RATE MY PROFESSORS to get a feel for professors in your child’s area of interest.  After reading up on schools, talking to  your pastor, high school guidance counselor, family and trusted friends for suggestions.  Before applying, usually the summer before the senior year, make a visit. Going to visit the schools in person is important.  Schedule a visit and tour.  When scheduling, make arrangements to speak with an advisor in your student’s area of interest.  Also important is financial department to inquire about scholarships.  A scheduled appointment to the coach/advisor your child may be part of.  Take a list of questions and although your child will be the student, realize that you may lead to the discussion to get all questions answered.  After each college visit, talk about your observations.  We actually made a grid with points and 100 was a perfect score.  Look at categories such as programs offered, location of institution, dorm/food, social, cost/scholarship opportunities and any other categories that are pertinent to you.  We would discuss AFTER everyone had rated the visit.  Even the younger brother or sister should score the school as they may notice something you did not, this is a good experience for them and also, it will keep them engaged in the visit.

    After your visits, decide which schools to apply to and fill out all applications.  If there is one clear leader and applying early has an advantage, do it.  For the top schools in the running, go make another visit and allow this one to include an overnight, scheduling it through the school if this is something offered.  If they don’t schedule these, find someone you know who has a student there and arrange for an overnight on a Friday, allowing them to go to a class, a meal in the cafeteria and experience a night on campus.  Our kids garnered even more information on the overnight visits than the tours.  Give your child some money to pay for any costs needed.  We would offer to take the host out to lunch or dinner the next day to say thanks and then have your child write a thank-you note. You’ll come up with your own way of saying thanks to this kind young adult who helped you child have an experience in making an important decision.  Talk to your son or daughter about appropriate behavior and a plan for safety should it be necessary such as calling you to come pick them up. As always, be prepared. Discuss observations your child may want to make like is there more partying than they would be comfortable with, what do students at this school do for fun on the weekend?  Is Greek Life a part of the campus and is this something your child would be interested in?  Are there enough social events on campus or do students need to go elsewhere for fun?  Does your child like the idea of a school where attending sporting events would be part of their ideal weekend activities? Do they see in the student population a place for them and their level of social activity? how was the class they sat in on?  Is there a church/synagogue close enough to campus to be part of a faith community?

    Again, rate the experience after the visit and arrange for any additional staff you may need to speak to with a phone call/appointment in advance.  Don’t just show up and expect to be seen.  Be respectful, but remember you are interviewing the school. This is a huge investment in finances and your student’s time.  You need to get any and all questions answered to make an informed decision.

    Once you get notifications as to which programs/schools your child has been admitted to and scholarship information, place all of the information on the table along with ratings.  Spend lots of time discussing each selection.  Have your child also consult other significant adults in their life for their thoughts.  Again, reassure your child that if they need to reconsider after a decision has been made and they have given a school/program a chance, nothing is written in stone and that you will help them get to the program/school is right for them.  Knowing all of that should take the heat off and give you and your child some tips to get them where they need to be and enjoy the journey along the way.  Remember that you are helping them transition into the next chapter of their life, adulthood.  You want them to grow into the best person they can be, utilizing the gifts and skills they have to live a healthy, productive and balanced life.

    Let me know if you have any questions, thoughts or topics you’d like to hear about.  You can reach me at Wishing your a great day!