5 College-Planning Myths Debunked for Parents

5 College-Planning Myths Debunked for Parents

Are you worried about all the wrong things when it comes to college planning?

By Wendy Robinson

Every year in the United States, more than 3 million students will graduate from high school. This means, of course, that there are probably millions of parents thinking about or worrying about the college-planning process right now.

Helping your child choose and get into the right college is an important task for many families and it is easy to feel overwhelmed, especially when all you hear in the media is how expensive college is or about schools that accept only 5 percent of their applicants. But the good news is that college planning might be easier than you expect, once you know the truth behind these common college myths:

1. College admission is super competitive: While it is true that there are some colleges that are ultra-selective (taking in 10 percent or less of the students who apply), the reality is that most of the nearly 3,000 colleges and universities in the United States accept the vast majority of their students. Even if your child has had a less-than-stellar high school career, there are community colleges and some universities that take pride in having an open door to all interested students.

2. If my child isn’t doing 27 extracurricular activities, she is doomed: Extracurricular activities like sports, band, or drama are a fun part of the high school experience, but they aren’t a make-or-break part of a college application at most schools. In fact, many of the more selective schools would prefer to see a student excel in one activity rather than be casually involved in a dozen. So let your kid follow his or her passions and choose a reasonable level of involvement.

3. Parents shouldn’t be too involved in the process: Both the college search process and the transition into college are times when, according to Jim Hayes, vice president of student development for Simpson College, many students rely heavily on their parents for support. These “emerging adults” are, Hayes says, “starting to test their identity and figure out their calling but many still want that parental connection.” Parents shouldn’t be doing all the work of the college search process, but being involved is something your child probably wants and needs.

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4. College is insanely expensive: It is true that the costs of higher education have been rising steadily in the last few decades, but around two-thirds of college students receive some type of financial aid to help offset the costs. Families should review the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and talk to the financial aid office of schools they are considering to find out the real out-of-pocket costs of attendance. Some expensive schools may be more affordable than you expect after you factor in grants, loans, and scholarships.


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5. Student loans are bad: While there has been a lot of discussion about the rising amounts of student loan debt in the United States, it is important to remember that with careful borrowing, student loans can be a valuable tool. Former college admissions counselor and current Central College Upward Bound Coordinator Tiffany Berkenes reminds families she works with that “higher education should be considered an investment that will give back over a lifetime.”

So, take a deep breath and relax! It still takes time and patience, but college planning may just end up being easier than you think.

Does the thought of college planning stress you out?

Wendy Robinson is a writer, working mom, and graduate student. Someday she'd like to sleep in again. She also blogs at www.athleticmonkey.wordpress.com.

Image ©iStock.com/PeopleImages

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