Getting your child ready to go to college can be challenging. You want to provide some of your own hard-earned expertise, but you also need to walk a fine line between steering your nearly adult child away from obvious pitfalls and letting them learn on their own. If you have been a particularly involved parent, you might have to bite your tongue and force yourself to step back and let your kid navigate issues with professors and roommates. However, there are other ways you can provide a great deal of help and advice.
One thing your kid almost certainly needs help with is paying for college. Even if you have been saving up for this or your child is eligible for scholarships and other aid, there might be gaps. You can help with the application approval on student loans by cosigning since most young people do not have a credit record that would allow them to get these loans on their own. You can also help your child research the various types of funding they may be eligible for.
Separate from the issue of getting the money for tuition and other expenses is what your child should do once they have the money. Talk to them about budgeting, and help them create a budget to manage their cashflow throughout the school year. You should also have a talk about credit cards. College students are often inundated with credit card offers and can get in over their heads without fully understanding what they are signing up for.
Major and Career
You’re appalled by your child’s choice of a major. You’re worried that they will hate the field they’ve chosen, or they want to study something that does not have good career prospects. First, keep in mind that if your child has not even left for college yet, a lot can happen in four years. Second, is it possible that your understanding about the field is out of date or simply uninformed?
For example, a liberal arts degree might sound impractical, but this actually be a great undergraduate degree for your child to later apply to law school on, and many businesses are looking to hire generalists. On the other hand, your kid might be interested in studying something that either didn’t exist or wasn’t a big field when you were in college, like game design or social media. While you can gently offer advice, this is one area where you’re ultimately going to have to let your kid make their choices.
In the interest of avoiding hurt feelings all around, it’s probably a good idea to have an explicit conversation with your kid about communication expectations once they are off at college. Try to come to an agreement about a level of communication you are both comfortable with, such as a video chat once a week. While your child should know that you are always there for them, you should encourage them to be independent and not rely on you to manage their day-to-day issues.