Why Parents are Important in the College Search Process

Published by Wendy Nelson on

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy own college search experience, many years ago, is a good argument for why parents are important in the college search process.  I took the lead in the college search process my junior year of high school, visited a school, and then my best friend told me she was flying to visit a very conservative Christian college over Thanksgiving.  I decided I wanted to go with her.  We flew down, stayed with a really cool girl with a red sports car, and toured a campus filled with futuristic looking buildings.  It reminded me of going to the World’s Fair when I was younger.  I was hooked.  I decided that was the only place I was going to apply. My parents did not approve of my decision, but did not protest very hard.

Sometime in the fall of my senior year of high school, my best friend and I had a falling out.  It became a permanent rift and we went our separate ways.  I remember feeling like going to that college was my only option.  I didn’t realize that it was not too late to apply other places.  By the time my mom and I made the 12 hour drive down on move-in day, I knew I really didn’t want to be there.  I only lasted a semester.  It turned out to be a short stop on a long journey hopping from college to college never satisfied and not sure what I wanted to study or do with my life.

It took starts and stops at eight colleges over 14 years for me to finish my bachelor’s degree!  I was not the type of student who would have been expected to drop out of college.  It wasn’t like I was out partying or anything either.  I was just lacking discipline and direction. I think what was missing, most of all, was parental guidance. I wish one of my parents would have said, “We aren’t paying for school if you choose to go there.  You are on your own.”  That would have kept me from making my first bad decision.  Actually, at any point in my first few years of college hopping, withholding or putting conditions around my college funding would have worked.

Why Are Parents So Important in the College Search Process?

  • An 18 year old cannot be expected to make completely intelligent and rational decisions.
  • Some kids don’t want to focus on the future and left to their own devices would not ever start the college search process.
  • Part of a parent’s job is to guide their children to make decisions that will  provide the most benefit for the long term.
  • A parent can help keep the college search organized.
  • An 18 year old doesn’t have the same appreciation of cost vs. value that a parent often has.
  • Sometimes, like in my case, the lessons the parent learned in his or her own college choice experience can lead to a better decision process for the child.
  • Most often, the parents are paying for some or all of the cost of college and that entitles them to take a hard line on what is acceptable.

In another post, I will talk about what I think the parent’s role in the college search process should be.  Until then, leave a comment if you have any other thoughts on why parents need to be involved in this process.