Yes, there is another side to the coin of college education. The young person needs to make the most of the opportunity, start developing a more responsible attitude, and preparing to enter the big wide world. But after high school, parents still have a huge role to play and while the relationship is going to change, the role of mentor as opposed to boss is a hugely valuable one that must be thought through in advance and attended to throughout the college years.
Talk to Them About Money
It is certainly worth looking into what grants and scholarships are available. Look it up online and ask around as other parents will be looking into it too, so see if they’ve got ideas you haven’t come across. Consider the location of the colleges your son or daughter wants to apply to. Out of town but not a million miles away is often a good option. It provides a sense of freedom (for both of you) but makes getting there and back quicker and less expensive.
You may not have a lot of money, probably not enough to pay the college fees plus living expenses. But you know someone who does have that ability, and it’s called a financial institution. A bank, probably. This is the time to negotiate a student loan. So, take your teenager along to see the manager. Sit outside the office if you’re confident they know what they’re doing, or go in and direct the conversation, while encouraging the youngster to do some of the talking.
Take Some Responsibility for the Loan
Many teenagers don’t have a relationship with a bank because they haven’t earned much money in their short life so far. If that is the case, you may be called upon to be a co-signee, which is a joint borrower, a responsible adult who can be relied on to help if your recently graduated offspring has trouble with the repayments. You don’t want it to come to that, and you will need to have a frank conversation with them about taking it seriously, but your name may have to be on there to keep the bank happy.
Keep a Discreet Eye on How College is Going
This is a sensitive time in a young person’s life, with independence being balanced with parental concern. It will depend on your relationship, because some parents are fortunate enough to have a feeling of friendship rather than strictly parent-child, so it’s up to you to play it as you see fit. You can be encouraging and supportive without being intrusive and judgmental, so give it your best shot.
Don’t Assume the Worst About Their New Friends
As parents, it is easy to think your child is being led astray, but that is not necessarily the case. That tattooed, pierced, parakeet-haired character who appears in the pictures you see on social media is someone’s child as well, so give them a bit of credit. Draw on your own experience as you were young once, maybe you went to college and had a good time you wouldn’t have wanted your own parents to know too much about, but you turned out okay, so trust your genes to prevail.
Don’t Give up the Helpful Gestures
If you’ve got a few bucks extra now, don’t underestimate the feelgood element of quietly putting a bunch of dollar bills in their hand when you say goodbye. Don’t expect them to buy a book with it. Do you know how much a night out costs these days? It can make your eyes water.
Take an Interest in Their Course
If you can get your student to talk about it, and if you understand a word of it when they do, let them know you’re interested. What are the lecturers like? If they’re living away for the first time, what is the town like, how is the apartment, how are they coping with the laundry and the cooking?
If you discover a new dish that’s cheap and easy, share it with them. Learn from them too because they will discover things that you don’t know. This engagement can help them avoid the second semester slump many students face when the newness and novelty wear off.
There may not be an official award for Parent of the Year, but you could be in the running for a private one, now or in the future, and it’s all part of building a relationship that has, in many ways, only just started.