What Your Child Needs to Prepare for College at Every Stage

If you’re a parent, you probably have certain aspirations for your child. If nothing else, parents generally want their children to be happy, but they also may also have some ideas about what they’d like their child to do with their life. For many parents, whether or not they have a college degree themselves, this includes going to college. There are a number of reasons for this. College opens doors to many professions that would otherwise be closed.

Even if a person’s initial career path does not require a college degree, that degree makes them more versatile and gives them more flexibility if they do decide to change careers later in life. A person with a college degree may have the potential for higher earnings than one without. The college years also offer many opportunities for learning, networking, developing leadership skills and having experiences such as studying abroad or working at internships, all of which can be useful in launching a career and throughout a lifetime. However, if you want to encourage and help your child go to college, you may wonder exactly what you can do to make that happen.


Money is perhaps the biggest obstacle for many people who are thinking of attending college. Tuition cost is a big part of that of course, but there are also many other related expenses, including the cost of books and the overall cost of living. There are many ways to prepare for these expenses, and many parents set up a college fund for their children while they are still infants. You may want to consider a 529 plan, which offers tax advantages as long as the money is used for education. However, you should also explore other types of savings to determine what the best choice is for you and your family. Costs are so high now that it’s not realistic for a student to work their way through college unless an employer is footing some of the bill, but they can certainly work part-time and contribute to some of their own expenses.

Your child can also apply for federal financial aid, grants, and scholarships. Even all of these resources are often not enough. Whether you are able to help your child with a little money or a lot, one of the biggest types of financial assistance you can give them involves becoming a cosigner on student loans, and what is a cosigner for a student loan? This is someone who assumes responsibility for the loan if the student cannot pay it off. Because college students usually don’t have a credit history, it can be hard for them to access loans. Even if they can, having a cosigner can mean much lower interest rates and better offers. This can lead to substantially lower costs over a lifetime.


Another way you can encourage your child to attend college is by setting the expectation as a kind of foregone conclusion. From the time your child is young, you can talk about going to college, where they might attend and what they might study there. When they begin going to high school, you can encourage them to take college prep courses and perhaps the SAT and ACT. This kind of mental readiness will help them throughout their lives as well. Down the line when working to make career advancements having a reasonable set of expectations will create a less stressful experience.


As a parent, it can be helpful to understand the system of higher education. This can be challenging if you did not attend college yourself. Even if you did, if neither you, your family or your friends are ensconced in academia, there are elements of preparing to succeed in college that can be difficult to understand. Your child’s school counselor may be able to assist in providing information. There may also be other adults in your child’s life, such as teachers, who can act as mentors. It’s important to understand such things as whether a certain career path will require further education beyond a bachelor’s degree and what graduate school involves. In the STEM areas, it’s common to need at least a master’s degree as well, but these programs typically cover the price of tuition and offer a stipend as part of a fellowship or research assistantship. It can also be helpful to understand the importance of getting to know professors and stopping by to talk to them during office hours.

Practical Help

One of the reasons better understanding the system for applying, getting into, and succeeding in college can be so important is because knowing how it works means you can help your child with it. This includes looking at different colleges to determine which ones may offer the educational path that interests your kid, identifying admissions requirements and deadlines, and visiting campuses if possible. You can also help your kid with strategies for applying, such as choosing a safe school they will almost certainly be accepted to as well as one or more long-shot dream schools to apply to.