Although you may want to encourage your child to make a certain decision, focus more on offering your input and your guidance, and then take a step back.

Here’s how to embrace your supporting role for college decision day, and allow your teen to take center stage for themselves.

Talk to Your Teen

Start the conversation by asking your teen why they like one school over another. Show interest in learning more about each choice and be open minded to their likes and dislikes. Once they’ve had a chance to share their thoughts, then you can offer your insights and give them other points to consider that they might not have thought about. They’ll be more open to your advice if they feel like you’re listening to them rather than trying to influence them.

Revisit Campuses Together

There’s a chance that your child isn’t 100% sure which school is the right choice. A great way to help is to suggest visiting their top school choices to narrow down the list. Taking a second tour can help the student realize which campus “feels” right. It might even be a good chance to practice some independence by having your child make their own arrangements with the school. Talk to your teen about what new questions they might have now that they’re an accepted student. For instance, if they will be living on campus, you can ask about what weekends are like on campus or even see if the school will arrange an overnight stay. Or if they’ve decided on a major, they can delve into that academic department a bit more, talk to a professor, sit in on a class or check out the classrooms and labs. Your teen might also be able to request the chance to shadow a current student who majors in their field of interest. 

If visiting campuses isn’t an option, then making a list of likes and dislikes and talking through it together can also help them decide on their top choice. Many schools set up social media groups for admitted students so they can ask questions and get more details, which could also help as you compare schools.

Crunch the Numbers Together

Evaluate the financial aid packages from schools together to compare what school is offering the most aid. You can use our free award letter tool to compare up to 5 schools at one time. If one school is offering a much better financial aid package, while the other is considered more elite, it can be hard to choose. Help your teen think long-term by looking at the pros and cons of each school choice. In addition, discussing career paths and starting salaries is important when considering how to pay for college and if you will need to borrow. Also, make sure to discuss if their intended field requires graduate or professional school afterward since that might help determine the right undergraduate choice. Finally, don’t forget to consider other expenses, such as room and board versus living at home or how the distance of each school might affect traveling costs.

Seek Objective Opinions Together

It’s difficult not to bring your own biases into the college decision. However, it might be helpful for your teen to hear thoughts from other adults or recent college grads. Nudging your teen to talk through the decision with people beyond mom and dad — such as a relative, close friend, school counselor or a favorite teacher — can help bring in different perspectives that they might not have considered.

Be Honest

You should be honest about your preferences and concerns but remember to encourage them to make their own decision. You may have strong feelings about one institution’s reputation over another, would prefer that your child is within driving distance to your hometown or are concerned about being able to afford one college’s price tag. Whatever the reasons, explain your rationale and discuss your concerns together so you and your student can come to a compromise. In the end, the choice is still up to them so emphasize that you’ll respect and support their final decision.

Before you know it, the decision will be made, and your family can move into the next phase of the college journey — preparing for freshman year.