Skip to main content

This is your Donation message.

The Parent's Role in the College Selection Process

The college selection process marks the transformation of dependent teenagers into independent young adults. This is their opportunity to stretch their wings, to make their own choices, and to begin accepting responsibility for their own lives. This will not be an easy time for you. You only want what is best for your student and who knows better than you what is best for them? You have always made the tough calls and you feel compelled to keep making them. How else can you guarantee your student a successful future? Your active oversight is what makes you a good parent. However, it is very important to hold your parenting instincts at bay and to let your student take ownership of the college selection process, from beginning to end. This does not mean that you become a disinterested bystander...far from it. You are your student's support system — their composed, confident sounding board and irreplaceable source of encouragement and advice. So, step back, take a deep breath, and watch your student grow. Trust your student and trust yourself. You have prepared your student well for this very important decision. Hopefully a few hints from us will make letting go a little easier.

Remember Who is Going to College

Do you know what your student wants out of his or her college experience? It probably won't surprise you to learn that parents and students are often not on the same college selection page. If you have not already done so, you need to find the time to ask your student what he or she wants out of a college experience. During this discussion, you can share your wants as well. Making the right college choice includes many factors, some of which are subjective. Almost by definition, you will not always agree with your student's subjective perceptions. The trick is to not dismiss or disparage your student's perceptions while expressing your own. An open discussion about both of your wants will go a long way towards ensuring a good college selection outcome.

Limitations and Opportunities

While your student should be the driving force in this process, you still need to be involved. Try not to take over, but don't hesitate to question and remind. You should try to learn as much as you can about all the schools in which your student is interested. Create a calendar with your student and organize it with tasks, deadlines, important actions, like applying for admission, financial aid, or scholarships etc. Take advantage of opportunities to learn about colleges on their websites, at college fairs, or from visiting admission representatives who may be in your area. Don't overlook your student's high school guidance counselor as a valuable resource; yet understand that in many schools, college counseling is not the counselor's only, or primary, role. Plan trips to all the schools to which your student plans to apply. We would never recommend enrolling at a school you have only seen online. While visiting, don't be in a hurry. Take the time to get to know the campus — have lunch, visit the student union, talk to students who are currently enrolled, read the school newspaper, and get a general feel for the campus (preferably while classes are in session). You will need to keep good notes if you visit multiple schools on one trip. You would be surprised how often all the campuses blend together over time. Help your student recap his or her impressions of each visit before you move on to another school. After all the visits are complete, review the positives and negatives of each school. Remember, it's not about your impressions, but your student's.

Consider the Cost

If you have financial restrictions which could limit your student's choices, discuss these limitations early in the process. Nothing is potentially more disappointing than finding out at the end of the process that a first choice is not possible because of a restriction that was known from the beginning and not mentioned. With that said, it would be a mistake to limit your search based solely on cost. All colleges utilize federal, state, and institutional aid to create financial aid packages to help you with expenses. However, very few families, if any, receive packages that match their expectations or desires. Be sure to compare the bottom line of all your offers and not the total amount of aid being extended. A financial aid package with a heavy emphasis on loans that have to be paid back may not be your best choice. As you know, the burden of loan debt can be overwhelming, particularly for new graduates beginning their careers.

It's All Good

As the selection process progresses to the decision stage, avoid the trap of thinking that only one college will be the key to your student's future success. There are no guarantees in the pursuit of highly sought and coveted admission offers, regardless of how wonderful and deserving you think your student is. The best approach is to visualize and verbalize how happy you will be to have your student enroll at any of the schools to which he or she applies. If not all of the schools extend offers of admission, celebrate the offers received rather than focus on the ones that weren't. Your student will be successful wherever he or she enrolls as long as you continue to be an active and encouraging presence in his or her life.

The Cost Breakdown

When comparing the costs of different schools, make sure you know what is included in the cost estimate that you are given. Different schools include different costs in their estimates. It is always a good idea to get the actual breakdown of all costs whenever possible.

The basic components of a college-cost estimate are: tuition and fees, room and board, and books. College-cost estimates differ tremendously, as there are almost an unlimited number of variations on these basic components. An example is tuition and fees. Some schools charge a flat rate. You pay the same amount regardless of the credit hours attempted. For flat-rate schools you normally have an upper limit of 18 credit hours and some lower limit, at which point you pay by the hour. So if your student attempts 18 hours, the tuition will be the same as someone who may only take 15 or 12. Obviously, the best economic deal is to take the maximum number of hours allowed, although this may not be a good idea for some students. Other schools, including Florida State, charge only for the credit hours attempted. So if your student registers for 18 hours, the overall cost will be more than for someone who only takes 15 hours.

Room and board is yet another example. At one school your student may be required to live on campus and participate in the dining membership. Another school may say where students live and what they eat is their choice. Even when the decision is made to live on campus, the costs can vary widely depending upon the type of residence hall and dining membership selected.

The estimate for the cost of books might vary somewhat from school to school but, quite honestly, the cost of books should be practically the same wherever your student enrolls. It is not unusual for students to purchase textbooks online from national distributors which charge the same rate regardless of the college attended. About the biggest variable for books is whether new or used books are purchased or rented. As you might imagine, new books can be very expensive, and used books are only inexpensive when compared to the cost of new books.

In addition to the basic components of college-cost estimates, you may also wish to consider additional costs in your comparison that may or may not be included in the estimate that colleges provide you. These additional costs can vary a great deal based upon distance and personal preference. Possible additional expenses consist of transportation, health insurance, computer, and lifestyle costs. Transportation costs include getting to and from your student's chosen school, and how many times your student will come home during the year. Some schools require health insurance if the student is not already covered, and some HMO's require additional fees to treat students outside of their normal service area. Some schools require a computer; others may only recommend one. Lifestyle costs refer to the luxuries that can add up quickly: eating out with friends, gas, new clothes, music downloads, movies, cell phones, etc.

Financial Assistance

All schools will provide financial assistance to students in need. Need is determined in a number of different ways, but the most common is with the federal government's need analysis form, known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. All colleges require the FAFSA, and a few may require additional forms as well. The FAFSA analysis determines how much money you are expected to contribute to your student's education. This amount is known as the Student Aid Index (SAI). Your student's financial need is determined by subtracting the SAI from the cost of the college. For example, if your SAI is $2,000 and your student chooses a school with costs of $20,000, he or she will have $18,000 of financial need.

The amount of financial need is what is used by the college to create a financial aid package to enable your student to enroll at the institution. In theory, the amount of money you spend out of pocket on college (the SAI) will be the same, regardless of the cost of the college your student attends. In reality, financial aid packages vary tremendously, and many include loans that must be repaid at a later date, meaning your ultimate out-of-pocket costs may be higher at one school than another.

Much like our discussion of basic costs, it is important to compare financial aid packages very carefully. Don't be fooled by the package offering the most overall dollars. Instead, figure out your total out-of-pocket cost, including future loan repayments.

How Do We Pay

Different schools will have different policies when it comes to paying college costs. Some schools will give you the opportunity to begin paying for expenses immediately upon your student's acceptance. Others will wait until after the first or second week of classes before requiring payment. Most schools offer payment plans, and most will accept credit cards. Generally speaking, you can think of your student's financial aid package as being placed into an account to be used to pay expenses. Your student will be expected to pay whatever balance remains after his or her financial aid package has been applied.

A Timely Graduation is our Top Priority

Our goal is to graduate your student in four years (or less!), and you can help us by making sure that your student stays on track. This can be complicated since student records are confidential and we have to receive permission from your student before we can discuss his or her academic record with you. So once your student has been accepted, have him or her visit our Delegated Access site on the myFSU Portal to grant you access to his or her academic record. With this access, you can monitor your student's class schedule and, perhaps most importantly, his or her grades. You would be surprised by how many parents don't know their student's official college GPA. All they know is the GPA their student has self-reported and, sadly, these do not always match.

Choosing a Major at Florida State University

Most college students will change their majors at least once before they graduate. What can you do to help your student identify the major and career path that is right for him or her? We encourage you and your student to read, share, and discuss "Choosing a Major at Florida State University" in advance of beginning college. It's filled with helpful websites, exercises, and activities designed to help students identify a major that will meet their career goals.

120 is the Goal

Most of our baccalaureate degree programs require 120 semester hours of specific earned credit to graduate. While there are many ways to accumulate 120 hours, the original concept was for students to earn 15 semester hours per term, for two terms each year, for a total of four years. In practice, students can earn 120 hours in many different ways as long as it only takes four years to graduate!

College Credit Earned Before Enrolling at Florida State

It is highly likely that your student will earn college credit prior to enrolling at Florida State. We recognize many different types of accelerated mechanisms that allow students to earn college credit while still in high school. A student can earn college credit by taking dual enrollment classes or by passing AICE, AP, IB, or CLEP exams.

If your student earns 15 or more credits while in high school, they might:

  • Degree in three - a program designed for students who wish to graduate in three years or fewer.
  • Double major - since most credit earned before college is in general liberal studies areas, your student could easily satisfy requirements for two majors in four years.
  • Earn graduate credit while still an undergraduate - quite a few of our undergraduate programs allow students to take graduate courses while in the final stages of completing the undergraduate degree.
  • Study abroad - even students without accelerated credit can study abroad, but when they already have college credit, it is easier to work it into their four-year plan.

We encourage students entering college with an AA degree or a high number of credit hours to speak with the Graduation Planning and Strategies Office to learn more about how to maximize their available options for degree completion.

Academic Advising

Beginning with a required meeting with your student's assigned academic adviser during Orientation, they will always have someone to turn to for academic advice. Students are assigned an adviser based upon their choice of major. If the major changes, so does the adviser. For all of our majors, we provide an academic map that outlines a four year, term-by-term guide to graduation.

Make sure your student meets with their assigned adviser on a regular basis. After Orientation, meetings with advisers are voluntary, so a few reminders from you, particularly prior to registration for future terms, would be helpful.

Opportunities to Shine

Encourage your student to become involved in his or her major. All of our programs provide opportunities for individualized experiences and research. If students love their majors, chances are there is a professor who would love to help them excel by setting them up to work in their lab, or by assisting them with a research project of special interest. To make it easier to get connected, we have the Center for Undergraduate Research and Academic Engagement, dedicated to helping undergraduate students become involved in research. Once connected, we have the Office of National Fellowships which helps them prepare for national fellowship/scholarship competitions like the Rhodes, Goldwater, and Fulbright.