Off to College?

Monday, August 26 at 10:10 AM
Category: Personal Finance

College for your child may be many years away, or it may be just around the corner. Whether your kids are 6 or 16, it is important you prepare them for college long before the time comes for them to attend.

For children in many families, going to college is an expected and accepted right of passage. But, for some kids it is an unknown, a world of mystery, an unconsidered prospect. Your child may not even be sure he or she wants to go to college. But, you'll never know if you don't take the time to sit down and talk with your kid about it. While exploring the possibilities of college and the future of your child, keep the following points in mind.

Communicate with your children about their goals and dreams. You have to keep the lines of communication open at all times. If you never talk to your kids about what they want to do later in life, then you won't have a sense of what their goals, dreams and aspirations are. If, on the other hand, you regularly engage your children in conversations about education and their future, then you'll learn early on the types of studies that might interest them and can help them make important decisions about their college career when the time comes.

Stay involved in their education. You have to be involved in your children's education from day one. It's not enough to take an active interest their first day of college. Ask them how they are doing in school regularly; talk with them about the classes they like and the ones they are struggling with. Start early and they will be more likely to keep you involved and appreciate your support during the college years.

Encourage your children to explore new experiences and subjects early. Don't wait until they are about to head off to college to encourage them to try new things. Start when they are young. Expose them to different subjects, music, sports and other creative activities so they have a chance to experience as much of the world as possible. This will help them to form their ideas and choices for college later on.

Don't push. You should be available for your children when they have questions about college or pursuing a career, but you shouldn't be overly aggressive about pushing them toward attending or even going to a particular school. Why? Your efforts may actually backfire and you may find your teenager decides to forgo an education all together, not because they aren't interested, but because they want to rebel if they think you are making their decisions for them.

Teach your child to start saving early. We all know college is expensive. Try to avoid having your child enter early adulthood strapped with seemingly insurmountable debt. Teach them to become financially responsible early on by helping them set up a savings account. It doesn't have to be for school or college only, but it will help teach them the value of saving a dollar. While you are at it, it is never too early or too late for you, as a parent, to establish your own college education savings plan.

Preparing your children for college is a big step and a major parental responsibility, but an important and worthy one. Your children will thank you one day for taking time to point them in the right direction and helping them through their college years. And, it will only increase your pride and satisfaction come graduation day.

Tags: Budgeting, Financial Education
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