Sometimes it's tough accepting advice from your parents. After all, you're almost ready for college and you're certainly ready for more independence. You know you can handle a lot of decisions on your own. But trust us, when it comes to the college search, you need your parents' help. They've got experience, wisdom and insights you won't find anywhere else. And they no doubt have a pretty good idea about what kind of school would be a good fit for you. After all, who knows you better? You just need to know how to work with them to get the best results in the college search process. How? Here are three big tips.
1) Be willing to compromise
You're convinced that the best place for you is a college that's 2,000 miles away from home. Your parents are determined to send you to the college down the street. Is there any hope that no one will end up angry? We think so.
When opinions clash, you may feel like saying, "Forget it!" But don't give up: Compromise is possible. "One of the things that can really hinder the college search process is unspoken tension between parents and students," said one admissions director. To avoid that tension, talk it out. When you and your parents agree to communicate and make the search a team effort, things will go much more smoothly.
Plan a time to sit down and talk. To help get the conversation (and compromises) going, we created the College Choice Checklist on page 18. Think about your priorities in regard to size, location, and some of the other factors listed on the worksheet. You should be able to state the reasons these things are so important to you. Ask your parents about their priorities, and find out why they feel so strongly about them. Take turns talking. And really listen. Once you've all shared your feelings, it will help you to come up with a compromise.
2) Plan a family visit
Visit schools with your parents. When your mom and dad experience a campus firsthand, they're more likely to understand why you like it. They will get to see what you see and hear your thoughts. And they will be more likely to feel good about sending you there. That will make it easier for you once the family negotiations begin. One admissions expert said, "Parents want to be familiar with and feel good about the place they are sending their son or daughter."
Also, your parents will most likely come up with questions you hadn't thought of and spot things you didn't notice. Think of it this way: If you visit alone, you're looking at the campus with two eyes. If you go with Mom and Dad, there are now six eyes to take everything in. "A successful visit is one where there is a healthy interaction between parents, student and admissions counselor," an admissions director told Christian College Guide.
He said that he often recalls a family who planned their college visits really well. Both parents came to the campus with their son for a special visit weekend during the son's junior year. They all took great interest and asked a lot of questions. The son then applied during the summer and came back by himself in the fall of his senior year. The strategy paid off. By seeing the school twiceonce with his parents' observations and once to confirm his thoughtsthe son felt like he knew everything he could about the school and was positive it was the right fit for him. "They were very thorough in the process and got a great perspective on the university," the expert said.
Some students decide the minute they arrive at a campus: "This is the school for me!" Others decide right away: "I hate this place!" If you have those instant reactions, it's important to figure out why you feel that way. You and your parents should take notes while on campus; then while the experience is fresh in your mind, make a list of pros and cons on the ride home. Use the pro-and-con list for a family discussion. Talking to your parents might help you to understand what you like or dislike about a school, and then you'll be able to look foror stay away fromothers like it.
3) Pray together
One of the best things a family can do throughout the college search process is to pray together. Pray for patience with each other, and with the process itself. One admissions director said that her department prays for students looking at their school and that the right students will choose their college. She added that her staff especially appreciates families who pray regarding the college decision.
As your family prays together, place the decision in God's hands. This will help your family when those decision letters are deliveredespecially if you have to deal with the disappointment of not getting admitted to your first choice. "Sometimes God's way of telling us the best fit for us in schools is by closing the door to one institution and opening the door to another," an admissions expert said. "It doesn't mean that you are a failure; it just means God has a different plan for your education."
Try to remember that your parents are just as emotionally invested in your decision as you are. They are hoping and praying for the best for you. As you pray with your parents, pray for your parents, too. There will be a lot of changes ahead for them. Ask God to give them strength, encouragement and wisdomand to remind you all that you're in this together.
Karen is a graduate of Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana. Admissions personnel from the following schools contributed to this article: Calvin College, Dallas Baptist University, Indiana Wesleyan University and George Fox University.