This is my second time to walk through the challenge of making decisions about what college my graduating children should attend. You would think that I would have a better grip on things walking through this the second time. However, raising children always presents new challenges and solutions.
I suppose it is kind of like childbirth and child rearing. Each child is different, therefore each child is going to need and require…well, something different.
Weighing all the Variables of College Preparation
There are so many variables from scholarships, tuition, fees, deadlines, and requirements to what your child wants to study. I don’t think that many kids at 18 really know exactly what they want to do, so there is also the decision of taking a “gap” year to apprentice and decide what they wants to do before spending a ton of money on college.
I love the idea of a “gap” year to apprentice. At the same time, I am not yet that courageous to get off the mainstream line of thinking that college is just an extension of high school. It is something “you have to do” right when you graduate to be successful. Still, I have put a lot of thought into the “gap” year and other alternatives. One idea is to invest the money that we would spend on college to start a business for our child instead.
College Decisions Can Feel Overwhelming
I believe that making all of these college decisions is overwhelming even to those of you that have just one child. Although an exciting time, it is an added pressure that can be quite time-consuming. For me and some of you, there is the added challenge of homeschooling several other children and training and teaching toddlers as well.
When my first son entered college, I had a 2 year old. Now my second son has just graduated, and I have a very active 4-year-old that likes to be busy doing REAL things all the time.
It is great to have older children to help if I am on the phone talking to different schools or calculating the “true” costs of schools for comparison. However, they all have their own school to get through as well as their chores and activities.
I’m the first to admit it can be challenging to educate pre-schoolers, early education students, junior high students, and high school students while preparing children for their post high school education. Yet I wouldn’t have it any other way.
While enjoying relationships with my adult kids, I constantly get reminders of how fast they grow up. This keeps me ever aware that I need to make the most of my time with my little ones. I need to take special care to teach them all they need to know in this life while I have them under my roof!
Some Hard-Won Advice on College Decisions
Maybe you are in this fun but challenging situation with me. Or maybe you are just trying to run a small business on the side to bring in more income for your family while you have toddlers at home. Whatever your situation, I hope these tips will be helpful and encouraging.
If you have any tips that will help other readers or myself, please leave them in the comments section below! I would love to hear from you!
10 Tips : How to Make College Decisions While Raising Toddlers and Homeschooling
1. Set aside time to give undivided attention to your toddlers.
I like to set aside this attention/school time for my toddlers and younger kids at the beginning of the day. I can get their school done, play babies with them, or ride bikes with them for about 45 minutes to an hour. This frees up my mind to think about the things that I need to get done for the older children. If I don’t do this early, it seems that my little ones get ill and interrupt me much more often than they do if I have spent adequate time with them and have gotten them started on other projects.
2. Plan special activities for your toddlers while you are going to be occupied.
At the beginning of busy weeks, I will set aside time on Sunday afternoon to organize different fun activities that will hold the attention (hopefully) of my little ones.
Depending on their age, I will give them play dough and tell them what I want them to make with it, give them sidewalk chalk and have them draw a story for me, make a picture booklet by stapling copy paper together and have them write a book about themselves, beads for bead necklaces (they have to be old enough for that), an educational video, watercolor, play in a sand pile or sandbox, plant flowers (older kids can help with this), stickers, etc.
3. Make sure that all age children are occupied.
I usually break the bigger kids day up into chores, school, art (this can be music, drawing, poetry, playwriting), and plenty of outside activities such as gardening, riding bikes, jump on the trampoline, build things, or just go for a hike. One of my older boys painted our entire house last summer.
You can add into their schedules a certain amount of time to play, teach, or occupy the younger children. This will give you peace of mind as you focus on your graduating student.
4. Plan ahead the calls you will be making and prepare a list of questions that your student needs to ask to the Universities.
The night (actually this takes several nights ) ahead, I will prepare a list of questions for each university. I prepare these same lists for my student (child) so that we can work on this together. Once my students are in college they need to be prepared to take care of their own dealings with the University with of course, guidance from Scott and I. This exercise will give them confidence in their college experience.
5. Prepare a college notebook.
I have a medium-sized 3 ring binder that has pockets to store pamphlets from various universities and other similar papers. When I am preparing my questions for universities, I use a separate sheet of paper with the name of the university, the phone numbers for the admissions office, scholarships, and any other person that I may need to talk to (dean of departments, etc.)
I make a column for tuition costs by the hour, by the semester, fees, and I always ask if you take more classes per semester, does the cost go down. You will be surprised that if you take one extra class, the tuition goes down because that school works off of tuition by the semester.
Find out if the colleges you are looking at accept CLEP scores. This can save a ton of money, but not if the college doesn’t accept them. For my second son, we have found a very expensive private college that accepts CLEP’s. Between the academic scholarships and the CLEP’s they accept, the tuition is less than a nearby public University.
On another note, if your child has ambitions to be a doctor, I do not suggest the CLEP route merely because the student doesn’t get a grade for those, just credit. He or she may need a cushion of A’s to offset any more difficult classes later in their college years.
If you have more than one child, you will save a lot of time and grief if you save this very important notebook for the next time you tread these waters. Beware though, since my oldest son started college 2 years ago, tuition costs have gone up around 8% and it continues to rise every year.
Whatever way you can compare apples to apples, write it on your papers. Comparing apples to apples is quite difficult when trying to determine the costs of schools along with scholarships and all the other applicable money.
6. Pray for guidance, peace, and wisdom.
God wants the best for your child. He will lead you and if you ask for wisdom, he will give it. Trust God in your decision as you dedicate this to Him.
7. Trust your child.
If you have a good kid that has a track record of making wise decisions, you really have nothing to worry about. Finances allowing, let your student do whatever it takes to get to the school of his/her choice. If you can’t, then pray for a miracle or consider that circumstance as an answer that it is not the right school for your child.
I remember wanting to go to a Christian college that also has a law school. I wanted to go there, but my parents couldn’t afford it. My mom gave me 3 choices of colleges. I am not sure that my decision was made through out and out logic, but it all worked out. I chose to stay at home and go to a good local public college — it was more liberal than I liked, but I made it through and my oldest son now goes there. If he is going to go to medical or dental school, he will sit through it there too. At least he is living at home and we can discuss any relevant issues. He was strong in his faith before he went and is still very strong today.
I was later accepted to law school and now am a lawyer (though not practicing at this time). Although my first desire was not met, nothing can thwart the purposes of God. By the way, I met my husband at this university!
8. Trust yourself.
God placed you as your student’s parent to guide, teach, nurture, and love. You are the most equipped to make this decision. No matter what others around you are doing, you will have a “gut” feeling of what is best for your family.
9. Remember 6 months from now, you will most likely have reached a decision.
This is always a helpful reminder. Driven by emotions, I can think that I will perpetually be in this cloud of limbo. As you delve through what you can do financially, what you want for your kids, and gather your information, the answer will spring up. Limbo is only a season.
10. Keep Perspective.
Keep in mind that if you find things are not going as planned and that the decision seems to be failing, you can always change directions.
This is not a lifetime commitment. All will not be lost. Learning takes place everyday and as some folks say, it is not the end destination that brings you happiness, it is the journey. If nothing else, you will learn to lean on Christ that much more.