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Choosing a U for You:  Helping Your Teen Make Decisions About College

Before discussing what college your teen should attend, you should consider what his life goals are, since his goals will have a major impact on selecting the best type of college for his needs.  For instance, a teen who is committed to pursuing a career in a highly competitive professional field such as medicine or law may want to focus on entering an Ivy League school, while one who hasn't made up his mind may be happier in a community college setting. Most colleges require a student to take one of two college admission tests. The ACT and SAT.

The next consideration in college choice is who pays for what.  Knowing how much money he has to spend will help your teen choose between living at home and attending a state school versus going away to a private college.  Hopefully, you have a clear idea on how much help you can give your teen with tuition, housing, etc.  If not, you need to look at your own budget before you look at college brochures.  Remember that in addition to whatever financial support you can provide there is also help available in the form of scholarships and student loans.  Loans can be particularly attractive because of their low interest rates and distant payoff schedules.  However, warn your teen that there will come a payday someday, and that day may very well be when he is trying to buy a house or support a family.

Finally, consider letting your teen delay college for a year or two if he needs time to grow up and decide what he wants to do.  Beware of the trap of using college as adult daycare for a young person who is still trying to find himself.  While some people shy away from delaying college, studies have shown that older students often do better academically than those who begin college right out of high school.

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