As my senior year approaches, big decisions keep looming closer. While my parents can help me with advice, since I turn 18 soon, it is up to me to make all the big-kid choices:
Where will I go to college? Should I live at home or in a dorm? What career do I want?
All of these options are huge and life-changing. Any one of them could affect my future. No one wants to make the wrong choice that could take them down a path to a miserable future and a miserable life.
I like to think that we are all optimistic and look for the good, happy things in life. I also like to think that many people want to live without regrets trailing behind them with every single step.
College is one of the biggest decisions that we teens have to make. We put thousands of dollars into an education and career path, so we want to make it a good decision. But how do parents help their teen do that? From my experience, here are some things to consider.
For parents, the first thing to know is what kind of major your child is considering. With that knowledge, you can research all the different options and the best programs with them. Yes, students can change their major, but they should at least have some sort of pathway they want to follow.
For example, I know I want to go into mental health. As of now, I want to be a psychologist for children. It is open to change, but at least I have a general idea of what I want to do. I can now research all the schools with good psychology programs.
Parents may also want to determine how competitive their child’s choice of major is. Also talk about if your child will complete their major in a regular setting, or in the honors program. You and your child then can get started early to make an impressive application.
The second thing to think about is cost. Private institutions are going to be much more expensive, as well as out-of-state colleges and universities. You, as the parent, will most likely end up helping to pay for it, so you want to decide what financial costs you can handle.
If your child decides to go to a more expensive institution and you can’t pay for it all, they know that they will need to work hard on scholarships and save money to be able to pay for it. I went on a college tour this year to Westminster and fell in love. I thought it was the perfect school for me. Then I looked at the price and the scholarships I was eligible to receive. Even with financial aid, I would have to pay $30,000 a year. That was too pricey for my taste.
Thirdly, you need to think about student living and location. You and your child should discuss the benefits and problems of living at home or in a dorm. While living at home would cost significantly less, a commute is something to think about. Students need to realize that dorms are also considerably smaller than what they are most likely used to, and there is a large chance they will have to share.
If they live in dorms, they will more than likely have to have a meal plan. If they live at home, they need a reliable mode of transportation. While some teens are eager to get out of the house, you may want to discuss whether or not they are ready to live fully on their own. Leaving home is a huge step in life.
Fourth, talk about size. Some people do better in a private school where classes have smaller teacher-to-student ratios. Some students would be all right taking a math class with 300 other students.
It is important to consider these options, because it can ultimately make or break a college grade. I know I learn better with a smaller class size. That is why I am striving to be in the honors program, because the class sizes are no more than 20.
Fifth, make a decision soon. It is hard and life-changing, but don’t wait until the last minute. Go on college tours and visit classes.
When I was a freshman, I wanted to go to the University of Utah. In my sophomore year, it was Washington University in St. Louis. During my junior year, it was Westminster. When I actually started to research and go on college tours, I realized that none of those wonderful institutions fit me.
I then went on an honors tour at Utah State University and instantly fell in love. We even explored Logan to see where I would live. While I made that choice at the end of my junior year, I wish it would have been earlier. Then I could have focused more on my ACT scores and what classes I need to take for an impressive application and one that would stand out.
Now I have more direction. I know exactly what I need, not only to get in and into the honors program, but also for the Presidential Scholarship.
Ultimately, my advice to all students and parents is to talk about it. The earlier you pick an option, the more time you have to plan, save and prepare. Don’t be afraid to visit campuses because you think you already like one. Visit them all. Picture the one that you feel would fit best.
If you follow these tips, the decision of choosing a university or college may come easier — and be a good life-changing choice.
Peatross will be a senior at Tooele High School this fall.