Be a partner in their Progress
In the Open: Talk to Your Child
When it comes to your child's hopes to continue hiseducation, communication is key. If you haven't had thisconversation yet, bring it up, the sooner the better. If heinitiates the conversation, be a patient and attentive listener.Ask questions. How much research has he done? Has he talked to hisschool counselor? Does he have any idea where he wants to go toschool? Has he thought about how to pay?
If you have concerns, be honest about them, but keep an openmind. Look back at the Possible Concerns on the previous page tosee how you might overcome your fears. Be open to what's possible.
The Road Ahead: Make a Plan
After you and your child or the child in your care havetalked about her hopes for postsecondary education, it's time tomake a plan, regardless of what grade she's in. It's never too soonor too late to start planning. It makes everything a lot easier.
With a plan, everything is out in the open. There are nohidden obstacles lurking in the back of your mind. Chances are someof those roadblocks will seem easier to get around once you putthem in writing.
There are many free online resources that can help with yourplanning.
Start preparing now/high school juniors and younger hasplanning advice you and your child can use to formulate a plantogether.
Start preparing now/high school seniors offers amonth-by-month task checklist.
The college roadmap creator lets students (and their parentsand caregivers) download customized college roadmap posters, with aplan of action for each year of high school.
The Student Aid on the Web Parent page contains more planningadvice and links to many other useful Web sites.
You should never have to pay for information about collegeplanning and financing.
Some companies make the process seem more difficult andconfusing than it really is, in hopes of getting your business.There is simply no need to pay for information that is readilyavailable for free. See Be Money Smart for more information.
Making It Happen: Supervise and Support
After you plan, it's time for action. Decide what roles youand your child or the child in your care should play. What youdecide will be based on your unique family situation.
You probably don't want to be a "helicopter parent." Thistype hovers over the child throughout his school career, sometimesmaking college decisions without even consulting the child.
Don't be at the other extreme either, by doing nothing tohelp him continue his education. Find the right balance.
Think of yourself as the key supporter of this project. Makesure your child takes care of key tasks by certain dates. Praisehis good performance and provide supportive correction when heisn't measuring up. And be there to handle things that only aparent or primary caregiver can.
The Basics: Play Your Part
Planning aside, there are some basic things you can do tohelp your child prepare to continue her education. Of course, everyfamily situation is unique. There may be only so much you can do,based on your work schedule, your financial situation and otherfamily commitments. Even if we wanted to, most of us don't have thetime or resources to be "helicopter parents." The important thingis that you stay involved and offer meaningful help where and whenyou can:
Talk to her teachers and counselors.
Let them know that you support her educational goalsand ask for their help and support, too. Ask teachers andcounselors to tell you about anything that concerns them about herprogress. Stay in contact throughout the school year, every year.
Set realistic academic expectations.
Monitor your child's schoolwork habits and performance andlet him know that you expect him to work hard.
Make sure he takes challenging classes and applies himself
Watch out for signs that he is struggling; he may try to hidethem
If he is having trouble, see if you can help, or, ifpossible, help find a tutor for him. Ask his counselor forrecommendations
Grades are definitely important, but your main focus shouldbe that he is doing his best and challenging himself.
Enforcelimits. Kids today have more distractions than ever. You know your childand her work habits. Let her know that you expect her to put schooland her college plans first. That means limiting her timesocializing with friends (whether in person, on the phone or on theInternet), playing video games, watching TV, surfing the Web oreven working at an after-school job.
Be his biggest cheerleader.
Healthy self-esteem is so important to a child's success.Your praise and approval are critical. When you celebrate hisaccomplishments, he sees that you're always paying attention, notjust when he falls short. On the other hand, don't overdo it. Kidscan sense when you're being sincere and when you're not.
Introduce her to the world of work. Many kids worry that theyshouldn't continue their education after high school because theyhaven't decided on a career. Let your child know that that'sperfectly normal. At the same time, help her understand what itmeans to have a job and acareer: Point out how some of her interests and talents might connect witha career. For instance, does she love music or play an instrument?Mention that aside from being a musician, there are dozens of otherjobs, such as recording engineer and concert promoter, where a loveof music is the starting point.
If she has already mentioned an interest in a certain career,help her explore it. Maybe you know someone in that field who mightbe willing to talk to her about it. Look for books, magazinearticles and newspaper items that might stoke her interest.
Share yourexperience. Do you have a fulfilling career? Talk to her about the path youtook to get there. Are you dissatisfied with your employment path?Discuss things you might have done differently and help her learnfrom your example.
Help him pursue his interests.
Colleges like to see outside activities on student resumes.These activities can also help your child discover subjects thatmight interest him in college and maybe point to a career.Encourage him to try any positive activity that truly interestshim, and provide any support you can to help him stick with theones he really loves.
Be her sounding board.
From choosing a school, to coping with test anxiety, tokeeping her grades up, she has a lot to deal with on her path tocontinue her education. Keep the lines of communication open:
Let her know she can talk to you about her hopes, dreams andfears. Be as positive as you can, even when you think she's being alittle unrealistic. That doesn't mean you can't speak up when youthink she's making a serious error in judgment — that's partof your job as her parent or primary caregiver.
Help her look at all sides of anissue. When she's considering where she wants to go to school, help herthink of questions she needs to ask herself, such as whether shewants to go to school locally or out of town. Does she want to geta 4-year degree, or a 2-year degree or certificate for a specifictype of job? What kind of roommate would she be compatible with?Because you know her best, you can help her make decisions that areright for her.
Do the grown-up stuff.
There are some things that only you as an adult can do. Oneexample might be promptly filing your income taxes in January ofyour child's senior year. That way you can work together tocomplete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid as soon aspossible. Another would be chaperoning him to out-of-town collegevisits.
Visit firstname.lastname@example.org today for more information.