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8 Ways to Help Your Teen with the College Decision

Parents have a strong influence on their children’s college decision. As the primary source of financial support for that choice, of course you would be heavily involved in the process. Whether you’re at the start of the college journey with your student or you have years to plan, there are some good ways to navigate the journey.

College is one of the most important decisions your child will ever make, and it can impact the rest of their lives. They feel the pressure, so one of your most important roles is to offer the sound and informed judgment you always have. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion and reiterate the values you’ve instilled in them from the start. But also, let them know that you’re there for the full journey and that you recognize their growing independence.

Here are some other practical steps you can take:

1. Encourage Your Child to Contact Their High School Counselor

High school counselors are a wealth of information on the college search and acceptance process. It’s never too early to start, but your student should be well on their way by their junior year. Counselors can provide information on specific colleges, advise on majors, discuss testing requirements and applications, and a lot more. Most importantly, their job is to stay current on all of this information and pass it on to your teen and you.

2. Have Them Take a Career Test

Selecting a college major can be pretty intimidating. But there are a variety of personality and career tests that your child can take to help with the process. Even if they have no idea or related experience, these tests can suggest paths based on your student’s likes and dislikes, learning style, and interests.

3. Help Them Choose a Major

With knowledge in hand about your student’s passions, strengths, and weaknesses, you can help them choose a few possible majors. They don’t need to home in on just one, but they should have a good idea what they might study. Whether it’s business or biology, you need to make certain the school your student chooses has the major they want, taught in a way that will help them reach their potential.

4. Find the Best Fit for Who They Are

You may already have a sense, but ask your student if they want big or small, city or country, local or far. Consider what kind of cultural fit they need to thrive. While you should encourage your student to step outside their comfort zone, how far is too far? Focus on the institutions that mesh the best with who they are as an individual. Talk to them about their priorities from the presence of collegiate sport departments and Greek life to the ability to practice their faith on campus and participate in service projects. If you are a family of strong faith, you may want your student to attend a Christian College. Help them decide whether a Christian college is right for them.

5. Use Online Tools to Narrow Focus

Once you have a general picture about what your student wants to study and the kind of college they envision, use online tools to narrow your college list. By selecting your criteria against U.S. schools, you can start to narrow the field and get a clearer picture about where they might go and what they need to get accepted. Your student’s high school may also subscribe to Naviance, which can help winnow the list and prepare a portfolio for their next phase of education.

6. Talk About the Costs of College

The college decision process is a good time to talk finances with your child. Regardless of your means, a conversation about cost will help them view their education as an investment that will have financial implications. Talk about tuition, room and board, travel, and other incidentals. And make sure they know that if they take on student loan debt, it’s a responsibility that needs to be taken seriously. Affordability should be a consideration for both of you, but be careful of sticker shock. Many colleges with high tuition provide significant financial aid to their students.

7. Ask Questions and Encourage Them to Do the Same

Some teens have a strong idea where they want to go to school; others have no clue. And it can be hard to get a handle on what they really want, if they focus only on majors and location and other traditional collegiate differentiators. Get them thinking more about themselves—specifically, their interests, what fulfills them, what excites them and how they imagine their life after graduation. This line of thinking can help you all narrow in on a great decision.

8. Visit Colleges with Your Student

There’s something about setting foot on campus that will tell you more about a school than any website, brochure, or admission counselor. Take college tours—preferably in the fall or spring when there are actual students on campus. The admissions team and scripted tour guides only give you a partial picture. What will the students you bump into on your visit tell you about the school they chose?


Nestled in the picturesque mountains of rural Virginia, Bluefield University offers a faith-based and academically rich option for both people of faith and secular students. With more than 70 different major programs, students have an opportunity to expand their minds, hearts, and souls. Class sizes are kept purposefully small, and faculty are some of the best in their field, with the added benefit of coming from a place of faith. Visit our programs page to learn more.

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