March 25, 2011

Good Advice for Parents with Children Going to College

WSJ published the article Before You Choose that College.. which I found carried via Yahoo.   I think it has some good tips for parents of children headed to college.

Their advice is as follows :

1. Encourage your child to select a career first, and then a school.
2. Don't promise your child you'll pay the entire tuition.
3. When deciding between an in-state public university on the one hand and a private university or out-of-state public university on the other, make your child responsible for at least some of the costs of choosing the more expensive option.
4. Make a deal with your child: Underperform and you're out.
5. Help children protect their health and finances from uncertainty and risk.

You can read the entire original article for their full explanation and reasoning for each point.

I would generally agree with all of these.  Here's my take on their advice.

#1, I think this first tip of theirs is probably the most important in general.  Encouraging your kid to pick a career field is a very good idea.   Far too many people go into college without any idea what they want to major in or do with their lives.   This can cause them to drift from major to major and end up taking 5 years, 6 years or even longer to complete school.    I had a clear idea on what my career field would be before college (engineering) and I was able to graduate in 4 years.   I really think that having a career in mind from the start helped a lot.   I know it is hard for kids to decide what they want to do when they grow up but the sooner you get them seriously thinking about it then the easier it will be for them to decide.  Don't let them wait till they're 18 years old and registering for college courses before they start the process.

The 2,3 & 4 items are motivating the student to do well.   Giving them a financial stake in their education helps them feel more inclined to work hard.   Making acceptable grades a requirement for further funding should also help motivate the student to stick to their studies.   I would just make sure that you don't push these items too far.   Expecting your child to contribute to paying for college is a good idea I think, but on the other hand you shouldn't kick them out on their 18th birthday and cut them off.   Requiring too much from your student or holding back money too much could cause them to end up working 60 hours a week to pay for tuition.       Working hard never hurt anyone but even the best of us can struggle if we're working too much.   Too much work will leave too little time for study and could end up jeopardizing the students grades.   Also be fair when expecting good grades.   Its not reasonable to demand straight A's from a student and doing so is going to put too much pressure on most students.   But expecting B average or better is pretty reasonable and shouldn't be t too harsh for most students.

I guess I'm not too concerned about #5 as it seems to mostly deal with medical records.  

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