Every parent knows that trying to force their child to see the big picture can be difficult at best and migraine-inducing at worst. When it comes to searching for colleges and the final payoff of a degree, that picture is much bigger than just the next few years. A college education will make all the difference in what your child will do and what opportunities they have for the rest of his/her life. Education is the biggest investment that most families will ever make. To give you an idea of just how colossal this expense can be, the cost of college for families with more than one college-bound kid can outweigh the cost of the average home! And the families that belong to the low-income bracket? Paying for college can seem overwhelming and unrealistic. We’ve tried to compile some information you can use to (hopefully) motivate your child to start applying for scholarships.
Most kids have absolutely no idea how much things truly cost; it may be time to be bluntly honest. Perhaps a good shock will introduce them to the harsh realities of being an adult. Sit down with them and on pen and paper, show them how much a four-year degree really costs. If you are financially able, give them an incentive. Tell them that if they graduate from high school with a scholarship, you will buy them a car, or a trip somewhere. Don’t agree to a Porsche or Mercedes Benz, and make sure you outline the type of scholarship they have to win to get it (full-ride, tuition, etc.). Considering college can now cost three times as much as the car you buy, it might be the lesser of two evils.
Push your kids to talk to other students who have graduated with loans they’ve had to repay or who have had to work throughout college in order to stay enrolled. Also, ask other college students who have won scholarships to talk to them. Knowing first-hand the difference a scholarship can make could spark the fire in them to look for one themselves.
Don’t just nag them! Sit down with them and help with the search. It will ease both of your minds. Save yourself time too-know which types of scholarships and aid will probably fit your kid the best and start with those. Most people assume that scholarships are only for the best and brightest. That’s not necessarily so. There are certainly many academic merit scholarships for the gifted student but there are other types of scholarships the more average student can pursue. Parents need to help their students identify their options for scholarships and equip them to pursue them. A teenager is already trying to balance school, extracurriculars, their social life and the everyday pressures of being a teenager, and throwing in the responsibility of finding money to cover college expenses could be cause for panic, which is never a useful emotion.
Be proactive, and stay on top of the process. This is not to suggest that you do all the work-you could do the search and even request more information and application packets, but your child has to complete the application and write the essay, if there is one. Remind them to check on the status of their application and follow up with counselors and officials they may be in contact with.
You cannot waste time worrying that you are being overbearing or that you’re stunting your child’s emotional growth and maturation. What you are truly doing is working with your child to find a feasible way to pay for their education, a necessity that will keep on opening doors for them long after they’ve graduated.