10 Things to Do When Starting Your Child's College Search

Choosing a college is a huge decision, so make it a team effort. Work closely with your child from the very beginning, and all that school pride can be yours, too (just don't overdo it in front of your child's new college friends).


10 more tips on ...

Starting the Search

College Visits

Private Colleges

Academics – What to Ask

Campus Life

Affording College

Making the Final Choice


1Do your homework.

Maybe you've been planning for college since your child was in a onesie emblazoned with your alma mater's mascot, or maybe you're just getting started. Either way, your child is doing research. Join in.

2Talk. A lot.
Then talk some more. You and your child must agree on a number of different topics. Establish them early and keep an open line of communication. You'll thank yourself later.

3Have the money talk.
Resist your parental instinct to protect your child from harsh realities. Have a discussion early on about what financial limitations may exist and how to accept or overcome them. But remind them that paying for college doesn't have to be scary, if they do the work to find scholarships and other sources of funding.

4Go on campus visits.
Do it while school is in session, don't try to make it a vacation, and definitely talk to strangers. The more questions you ask, the more answers you'll get. You know, just like in college.

5Trust your child.
She knows what inspires her, what engages her, and what makes her happy. Discuss it in terms of study and career prospects and realistic goals, but at the end of the day (and at graduation), it's all about your child (see #10).

6Trust your gut.
Your parental instincts are there for a reason. If you feel your child's college goals are unrealistic, let him know early (and give him an honest chance to convince you otherwise).

7Be flexible.
You have expectations of what college will be like, and so does your child—the real experience lies somewhere in between. Establish some give-and-take, and the process will work for everyone.

8Talk logistics.
How far away is the school? How will your child get around campus and travel home for the holidays? Where will your child live, how will he eat, and who's paying for what? The time to ask (and answer) these questions is now.

9Establish ground rules.
And a mechanism to enforce them. Enough said.

10Remember: It's not about you.
The knowledge your child gains in college is hers. The friendships and mistakes she makes will be hers, too (though we're sure she'll share both). Keep that in mind, and college will teach you a lot.