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College- synonym: freedom. synonym: loss.
Some children only see college as a source of ‘freedom‘: freedom from the 8-2:30 daily schedule of their lives, having to wear a uniform, or answering to a principal. Report cards are a drag, and parents have too much of a say. Children (and I mean, children!) see college only as their freedom.
Some parents only see college as a cause for loss. They are losing: control over their baby’s every waking moment, thousands of dollars paid in tuition, and the time that they once shared with their children. Parents primarily feel it as a cause of loss for themselves. Parents and children alike need to see college differently. College is a time for growth, establishment, finding your voice, maturing, and enhancing your human capital. It is the moment when all the parents’ efforts in properly raising their child are put to the test- the test of reality.
We live in an era when college is the ‘fad’, and so it has become an almost entirely commercialized industry. However, one thing it should not be is a waste of time. To avoid that from happening to your college bound children, you need to guide them. Parents should always be in the passenger seat of the car, not the driver’s seat controlling the motion, and not in the backseat silently observing. One of the best things a parent can do for their high schooler is to just be there for them.
Here are a few pointers that we collected based on our experiences with different families for achieving this goal:
- Set their mindset for success from the early ages of middle school. The more you help them realize that greatness resides within them, the more capable they will become.
- Talk, really talk, to them. Have a mentor-mentee relationship and get to know their interests, likes, and dislikes in academics. You are more experienced at life than them, so your honest, selfless input about what major they should pursue is vital! However, you should not control their major or demand they pursue whatever you couldn’t. It is their life at the end of the day, and your job is to advise, not control.
- Be attentive. Be invested by listening and guiding your student to what is best for them.
- Work together. Make a college and a majors list with them. Then research these together.
- Be open to outside counseling and academic tutoring if need be. The SAT and GPA are the foundation for an excellent application.
- Expose yourself to the college process from early on.
- Use your networks to set them up with summer internships – they don’t have to be paid or even full-time. Just 2-3 times a week of working half a day, shadowing or helping out in an office for about 2 months is enough. 100 hours is the typical length of a full summer internship. Use this as an opportunity to help them gain first hand experience in various fields.
- Be open about finances. If paying for college is an issue, let them contribute before it’s too late. Know what colleges your child is looking into. If it has a $50,000/year price tag and you can’t afford that, you need to discuss this with them. Save, save, save. Hopefully in the end they’ll get enough scholarships, and you can use the money for a vacation! Checkout local scholarships, school scholarships, and the FAFSA for different options.
For more advice and tips, please visit our blog: http://www.hidayahservices.com/college-advice-for-parents
Bayan Abbasi is a recent graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick pursuing a career in Public Relations and Marketing. She is the co-founder, with her husband, of a guidance counseling service for high school students called Hidayah Services. She also writes for their new education blog at: http://www.hidayahservices.