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Big 3 stress-causing college-bound questions answered

Summer stress
Summer stress
Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images

Summer is supposed to be a relaxing time but for the college-bound and their parents, stress may kick out the fun. When families dig deep into the cause for worry, many assume it is the lengthy college prep to-do list. These tasks may be managed with organization and time management. The real culprit isn’t a physical thing and doesn’t have a shape or a form. It’s an omnipresent scary feeling based on fear of the unknown.

Status quo is easier to deal with than change. When a student leaves for college, life for the whole family is impacted. For the student, it combines moving, switching jobs as a student and living with strangers. For family members left behind it leaves a void and adds extra expense. Parents used to knowing where their child is, what he is doing and who he is with are left without a clue. Siblings have no peer to play with at home, help or be helped by.

The big three college-bound questions that cause the most anxiety are:

  1. Where will the student go?
  2. What will the college cost?
  3. How successfully will the family manage the college years?

The answers may be surprising but with this knowledge comes the power and the ability to turn fear into fun and worry into wonderful. It also allows for the creation of new habits that may become future family traditions. The secret is knowing what to expect, what to do, and what to avoid.

Here are the answers to each of the big three stress-inducing college-bound questions:

  1. Where will the student go? By carefully choosing a college list, the student is primed to thrive at any one of them. Form a parent-student team to brainstorm student requirements and divvy up the research to find schools that are most likely to fulfill the student wish-list. Have fun taking a “collegecation” (family vacay + college visit) to check schools out. Families then will know the logistics of visiting. They also will have familiarity with the campus and local area’s academic/extracurricular opportunities and safety policies.
  2. What will the college cost? Applying for financial aid and scholarships and maximizing the financial aid merit award potential can make college affordable at all income levels. Keep an open-mind and make the final decision after comparing financial aid offers from the colleges offering admission. Meanwhile, prepare family finances and figure out affordable borrowing based on future lifestyle desired.
  3. How successfully will the family manage the college years? By keeping communication flowing about finances, family expectations, and transition to a parent-adult child relationship, families may enjoy each other's company during college and beyond. Decide on method and frequency of regular contacts. Lay ground rules for home and campus visits to respect each other’s space. Learn about each other’s new interests/issues, be available to offer suggestions/help when asked, and don’t forget to laugh together.