Maybe you're a college graduate yourself, or maybe you decided to go straight into work or raise a family instead. No matter your own background, if your child wants to go to college in the US, there are ways to support them on their journey. Whether you've been planning since birth or just had the concept sprung on you, you can help.
Be realistic when talking about plans
Your child needs to have a realistic goal for how they're going to pay for school. Some schools are more expensive than others. Community colleges are a solid place to get general education credits before transferring to a four-year institution for a specialized degree. Similarly, trade schools are often inexpensive. But sometimes kids will have their hearts set on a gorgeous out of state academy with a beautiful campus and a huge price tag.
Make sure your child fills out the FAFSA application and applies for grants and scholarships. If there's still a balance left to pay after that, you might consider a parent loan. Unlike student loans, parent loans aren't your child's responsibility. You can borrow from a private lender and pay them back over time. For people who can't afford a college fund or a splashy tuition purchase, a loan is often the best way to be able to send your kids to college without the financial burden of tuition.
Encourage applying to many different schools
Plenty of students have a dream school. Maybe they've taken a campus tour, or maybe they've just heard riveting stories from former alumni. But there's no guarantee of acceptance to a school, no matter how good your child's grades or how diverse their extracurriculars are. By applying to several different schools, your child gets a safety net. They'll also be able to compare financial aid packages and scholarships from different offerings. That way, they can make the best choice for both their short-term educational experience and long-term future.
Help them prepare for interviews and tours
Interviews are a key part of the college process. If the campus is far away, you might spring for a trip across the country. If that's out of your price range, make sure you give your child the best preparation possible for their Zoom interview. It's important for your child to know that the interview is a two-way process. In addition to answering questions about themselves, they'll be able to ask questions about the school. What are the policies? What opportunities are there? How many students attend and major in your child's field of interest? The more questions they ask, the more the interviewer will remember them. It's also good to bring a thank you note or send a follow-up email before the end of the interview day.
Look into the academic opportunities at each institution
Different schools specialize in different things. Is your child an artist, a scientist, a reader? What are they hoping to do with their life? What do they want from college? The right college for them is whichever one gives them confidence that they're on the right path. Make sure your child has a plan.