Access to Education

Parents and Influencing Selecting A College

Norm Caban
Director of Recruitment for the Office of Minority Affairs
The Ohio State University

Parents who attended college a generation ago, and particularly those who have never attended college themselves, may have gotten the impression from the media that access to college is limited. Actually, since there are over 3,400 colleges and universities in the US, there are enough seats to meet the needs of all our graduating high school seniors each year. More importantly, parents should recognize that selecting a college is really about identifying the right fit for your child and not about buying a specific brand education. Here are some tips to help you navigate past the myths of the college search process.

Parents are encouraged to provide support for their child in the college selection process by engaging in the process with their child. Take the time to look at the college information that comes in the mail for your son or daughter. Also, learning about colleges on the internet is an excellent way to look at many colleges in a short period of time. Many organizations, including the ACT (www.act.org), the College Board (www.collegeboard.com), and CollegeNet (www.colegenet.com) have search engines that let you put in criteria like size of campus, academic program and location to search for colleges that may meet your student’s needs. Please remember, however, that the best websites and publications cannot match the value of a campus visit. Encouraging your child to work closely with the Guidance Counselors and teachers from their school demonstrates a high level of engagement and expectation that your child is planning on going to college. Saving for college, even just a few dollars a week, also sends a signal to your child that college is an expectation. Parents should expect no less than your child’s best in and outside the classroom. These important life lessons and values will carry your child through college and beyond.

As a family you will need to make time and discuss what the family can afford to contribute to the cost of education and various financial aid options, such as the real possibility of loans to finance your child’s education. If both parents and students understand that they are investing in the student’s education, just as they might invest in the stock market, the costs become more reasonable. The discussions should be on-going and be viewed as part of the college planning process.

Overall, the point is that most students will find several schools that can meet their educational needs at the right cost, and with the right social environment. Very rarely is their a perfect fit. As a parent begin exploring colleges early with your child, so they have the best opportunity to discover the many possibilities.

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