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The Best Way to Send Your Kid to College

The Best Way to Send Your Kid to College

Send your kids to college for one semester. Following that, let your kids make their way.

I remember wondering which university to attend. The problem was, at that moment, life began coming at me faster than I thought possible. College was just another piece of debris flying through the air, aimed at my face. I simply had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. How, then, could I have been trusted to know which degree to pursue? As I contemplated running away to live with a nomadic band of uneducated vagabonds, my parents stepped in.

If your kid is on their way to college, I bet they still do not know what they want to be when they grow up. That means your kid doesn’t know which degree they should seek or which school to attend.

Today’s youth are questioning the value of traditional education. Is a university education worthwhile? I believe it is.

As an incoming freshman, tuition costs, book fees, and the myriad other expenses scared me. I was so focused on the cost of going to school that I spent no time considering the benefits. Mom and Dad’s intervention began with an explanation of the opportunities.

My parents told me college was the best place to discover new ideas, face both diversity and adversity, and develop as a person. Looking back, I can now confirm these truths. I can also say, as a bonus, sometimes the education is also meaningful.

Okay so college is a good idea, but you cannot ignore the costs.

If your kids want to attend university, offer to pay for one semester.

I don’t know when parents learned it was their job to sponsor their adult children through college. Whatever the history, the tradition is outdated and harmful. Today’s youth are more entitled and less self-sufficient than ever before. Help them get started and then help them learn to take care of themselves. Think of it as potty training 2.0.

My parents offered to pay for my first semester. It was a gesture delivered with love, excitement and moderation. But, I was told any education beyond the first semester would be my responsibility.

Scholarships and Pell Grants are just two ways kids can handle their education themselves. The semester you pay for is plenty of time to find and earn scholarships. Also, with pricey tuition and living costs, working while in school is necessary. One semester allows kids to build a foundation of earning to support their learning.

I did well my first semester. I took a full-time class load and I earned great grades. In fact, the first semester of my freshman year were the best grades I had ever earned. My grades were a likely result of me being scared of my dad and the agreement we made. His generosity came with terms and I was better for it.

There are three ground rules I suggest parents set before fronting any money.

1) Require your kid to earn 12 credit hours, qualifying for full-time status. This will keep most freshmen engaged, but not overwhelmed, as they need to have a job as well.

2) Require it be a brick and mortar institution. Online education is awesome, but it will never replace the excitement and energy of a brick and mortar school. Hide their headphones, hand them a bottle of sunblock, and push them into daylight.  

3) Set a “GPA or Pay” standard and stick to it. What better way to set your kid up for success than building in a life lesson? If you do not receive the return on your investment, your kid should pay you back.
Your kid may change your ringtone to Darth Vader’s Imperial Death March, but it will build character.

For me, a four-year degree still holds value. After that first semester, I had many choices for how to pay for the remainder of my degree. I chose to join the military. This option has worked well for me. I have learned more about dirt and cold than I ever thought possible while also financing my traditional degree.

Paying for your kid’s first semester will help them gain a metric ton of knowledge. Maybe they will learn college is not for them. Perhaps they will discover a love for social sciences or physics. No matter the outcome, their education will be in their hands. You will have set them on a path for success, and they will finally pull up their Huggies and begin to define success their way.

Brig is a husband and father who loves telling stories. Whether through words or photographs, he believes telling the right story at the right time can change the world.

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