With three grown children out of college and one still in, I understand how frustrating the college experience can be from start to finish. First of all, the cost of a college education is exorbitant even if your child goes to a state or community school. The other frustration for many parents is that the child’s motivation and expectations don’t match the parent’s.
So what are conscientious parents to do? Are we to push, prod and remortgage our homes in order to get Sara and John through the best college possible? I don’t think so.
First of all, when a child is a senior in college, most lack adult reasoning and understanding of the consequences of their decisions. That means that we need to run interference and make some hard choices. Try as you might, if your son isn’t ready to make good use of the money you put out or the scholarships that he gets to cover his tuition, I’d skip college
and make him work until he’s ready to commit. The truth is, many 18 year old boys just aren’t ready to take college seriously and I see a lot of parents waste precious money. Remember, many boys see life very differently at 24 than they do at 18.
Second, parents must ask serious questions about what is wise use of family funds, particularly if a child isn’t applying for scholarships. Is it fair to make the family tighten their belts so that Susie can go to the college of her choice? I don’t think so. The fairest way to handle college payment is to give each child an equal amount of money and then tell them that they must find the rest of the money. This is not only wise money management and fair parenting, it motivates students to work harder. If they spend their hard earned money, you can bet they will be partying less on weekends.
So here’s what I recommend for all you parents who are sweating the decisions that some of your college bound kids are making.
- Decide what you can afford and be very clear with your student before his senior year. If he applies to schools that you can’t afford, offer to help him wade through scholarship applications but make it very clear that he must find the money. Stick to your guns. If he doesn’t get the money, he will learn to work hard at a job for a year and reapply to more realistic schools the next year.
- If you have money but feel that your student isn’t ready to go away, opt for a community college and have him live at home. Or, tell him that he must work for a year or two. Sometimes, giving him time to mature is the kindest gift you can give a student.
- Skip the guilt. The truth is, 99% of students will get to the career they want regardless where they go to school. Many brilliant professionals came up throughout the ranks of small community colleges, not the Ivy League schools. And- some kids aren’t meant to go to college. Some are more adept at trades and other jobs and part of good parenting is recognizing where a child fits.