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How to help your child pick the right college

One former college administrator breaks it down.
Don't be afraid to voice your opinion.iStock

College hopefuls across the country will be on edge for the next few weeks as they start to weigh their options. As students go through their checklists and start doing their final visits, one former college administrator says parental participation is key.

“For a typical high school parent, mom and dad usually don’t want to discourage their kids from going where they want to go,” says Joe Schmoke, the founder of University Research and Review, a firm that helps guide students toward affordable colleges and universities.

“But parents should be as objective as they can to encourage their kids to really think through this.” We asked Schmoke for his tips for families.

Don’t be afraid to push back: “This is the first adult decision that 99 percent of these kids are going to make in their lives,” notes Schmoke. “Challenge that decision. Ask ‘why are you picking this school?’”

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Talk to your child about goals: Second to costs, Schmoke says the second most common reason people transfer is because they change their field of study, “It’s only natural that someone will change their major as their interests and personalities change,” he says. Schmoke also recommends that parents recommend their college-age children take a personality test to get a better idea of the kinds of careers they would thrive in. “Looking for schools is a frustrating time,” he notes. “So these tests will let you figure out what it is that you are all about and what you like.”

Be honest: “For many students, the initial decision [of picking a school] is an emotional one,” says Schmoke. “Then it dawns on them that they’ll be paying for school for 40 years.” Parents, he says, should be up-front with their children about what they can afford. “You should be researching for the best value,” he says. “Negotiate for financial aid, look at scholarships.”

Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.

 
 
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