Lessons learned about the college process for six children

lessons learnedMy husband and I are parents of six children ages 8, 14, 17, 18, 19 and 20. To date, our family has completed 3 college processes and we are currently going through it once again with our high school senior. Many of our friends joke that I could teach this process to other parents because we have been through it 4 years in a row since 2005.

From the beginning, we have made it clear to our children that receiving a college education is absolutely necessary if not mandatory. We have made a commitment to our children’s education and through this process we have learned much. It is our belief that sharing our experiences with other families will offer some guidance in this college search. The next few paragraphs are a brief synopsis of one of our many experiences and what we have learned.

When our eldest child was beginning her college search I cannot begin to express how overwhelmed she was and how confused we were. Things had changed since we went to college and developing a plan was important. Where should we look? What is the intended major? Do you want to play an intercollegiate sport? What will it cost? What options do we have in paying for her education? We started with the local schools in our hometown of Maryland and then expanded to 3 hours away to the neighboring state of Pennsylvania. We went to several open houses and had a few overnight visits. We met many basketball and lacrosse coaches. We heard many similar stories about why our daughter should come to “that” school. Lastly, we heard about financial aid that included loans for her and us and the occasional scholarships. The information was endless.

After this first experience with my first child, I made notes of mistakes we had made and ones that I would try not to make with her siblings. Through all of these college search experiences, I have learned to find one person at the prospective college that I could contact with any questions I had. Whether it is an admission counselor or financial aid advisor, it is important to have one person to tell your story to. I have also become a careful listener among parent groups at open houses, parent weekends and parent newsletters. Much can be learned from other parents. Lastly, we limit which open houses to attend based upon how the college will “match up” with our child, our family finances and values. There is no time to see it all. We now attend only a few college fairs because we find it impersonal, not to mention challenging. In our brief college search experience, we have received better results from seeking out that one special person at the potential college choice.

Everyone chooses to go through the college search a different way. Although many would agree that our situation is unique, I believe that sharing our experiences with others will make the college search more enjoyable.


Choosing Colleges