6 Pitfalls to Avoid When Helping Your Child Choose a College
Manju Banerjee, PhD
At a Glance
Your child’s expectations about college may clash with what you think is best.
Managing all the college search details on your own is a common pitfall.
It’s important to get your child’s input and get her involved in the process.
Working with your teen with learning and thinking differences to
choose a college can be very exciting. However, it can also be somewhat daunting, and it may create a lot of tension between the two of you. Your child’s expectations about college may clash with what you think is best.
Here are pitfalls to avoid when looking at schools.
Pitfall #1: Making a college list without your child’s input.
How to avoid it: Start talking with your child about possible colleges early. Discuss what criteria you and your child think are important in a school. This may include location, majors and minors, admissions,
two- or four-year options, extracurriculars and more. Use these criteria to come up with a list together.
It’s important to take your child’s choices seriously. Remember, she’s the one heading to college. Also, try not to take it personally if she disagrees with your suggestions.
Pitfall #2: Assuming you know what your child needs to succeed in college.
How to avoid it: You probably have a good idea what helped your child be successful in high school. But college will be a very different experience, and one you may not always be able to predict.
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It’s important for your child to assess her own
strengths and weakness as both of you consider colleges. Listen closely to what she believes her needs are.
Self-awareness will be a key part of her college success.
Pitfall #3: Managing all of the college search details yourself.
Pitfall #4: Underestimating the importance of independent living skills.
How to avoid it: When looking at colleges, you may be tempted to focus on academics. To succeed, however, your child will need many
independent living skills. She’ll need to manage money, meals, schedules, personal hygiene and maybe even medication.
As you choose a college, keep in mind the level of support she’ll need. You may want to consider a school closer to home. Start working on the skills your child will need for college as early as possible.
Pitfall #5: Not asking for advice and support from others.
How to avoid it: Nobody knows your child like you do. Nor do they know what’s best for your child. But trusted friends, family members and school professionals can be sounding boards and an added layer of support for you and your child.
They can help your child
think about her strengths, goals and values. They can also help her communicate where she sees herself fitting in, and why. And they might even be able to help keep her on track with her responsibilities in the process. Finally, their experiences may lead you to options you and your child had not even considered.
Pitfall #6: Showing too much disappointment if she isn’t accepted.
Not being too disappointed is important not only for your child’s feelings, but also for yourself. She may get into other schools on her list, and she’ll need to feel like those are great choices, too. It’s important to
stay positive and cheer her on, no matter where she goes.