Preparing Students for College: How Parents Can Help Their Kids Understand Education Options

AdminApr 12th, 2021


High school graduation season is still a month or so away, but when it comes to researching college options for your child, it’s never too soon to start.

Going to college is a big decision that often necessitates taking out student loans. Regardless of whether you or your child will take responsibility for repaying that debt, you’ll want to keep that in mind. Why? Because graduating college with a student loan burden on par with the cost of a new Tesla can be a hard way for a grad to start their 20s.

In addition to planning for tuition, fees, and related expenses (e.g., textbooks)t, you'll need to be mindful of safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. You and your child will need to decide whether learning in an on-campus environment, as opposed to remotely, is the best fit for them.

What You Need to Know about Tuition

When it comes to preparing students for college, you should know that community college is a solid budget-conscious option. If your child knows they want to earn a degree but hasn’t yet decided what to major in, community college can be a great place for students to earn their general education credits.

General education includes courses in English, math, humanities (e.g., art, music, and ethics), and social sciences (e.g., including psychology and political science). All degree programs require a certain number of general education credits.

Caution: Before your student dives headfirst into community college coursework, you’ll want to research whether the credit hours they’ll earn are transferable. If they already have an idea of the school to which they hope to transfer to finish their degree, they’ll want to find out if that school will accept their gen-ed credit hours. If not, they’ll need to retake courses, which will end up costing more in the long run.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • In-state public schools cost less than in-state private schools.

  • Out-of-state public schools and private schools typically are the most expensive options.

  • Students enrolled in online courses can save a significant amount of money on room and board, and they also avoid the cost of on-campus parking.

  • Online, pay-as-you-go college courses can help you (and your child) avoid student loans.

Preparing Students for College During COVID-19

Another thing you and your college-age child will need to decide is how they want to learn amid the current pandemic. While some colleges are offering in-person courses, others are operating entirely online.

If your child is leaning toward campus living, keep in mind that college campuses can quickly turn into COVID-19 hotspots, as The Washington Post notes. For example, outbreaks have reportedly occurred on campuses in Georgia, North Dakota, Texas, and Washington. It’s also worth noting that while some schools’ dorms are open, others remain closed.

Attending class in person clearly involves some risk, but each student (and their family) needs to decide how much risk they’re comfortable with. Alternatively, if they’re leaning toward online learning but are concerned about their social life, they don’t need to fret. There are still ways to make friends as an online college student.

Helping Your Child Choose a Degree Program that Fits Their Career Goals

If your child already knows they want to be a biologist, mechanical engineer, or statistician, for example, choosing a major will be easy. But if they’re like the millions of students who don’t quite know which career they want to pursue, deciding what to major in can be a little tricky.

Some students choose a major because they fall in love with the subject matter after taking an introductory course. Others might research majors that tend to lead to the highest salaries, because they want to earn a degree that offers a strong return on their investment.

If your child has no idea what to study, the good news is that most schools don’t require students to declare a major right out of the gate. Encourage them to make the most out of their general education courses and to take some time to explore until they find what interests them.

Explore Affordable, Flexible Options for Earning a Degree Online

If you’re interested in learning more about nontraditional, online college experience options that will enable your child to earn an affordable degree on their own terms, Pearson Accelerated Pathways can help you and your future college student map out a plan. Not only do most Accelerated Pathways students graduate faster than those who choose in-person or other online learning options, but they can also log in to complete their coursework from anywhere they have a Wi-Fi connection. (Fact: There are worse ways to earn a degree than doing it while relaxing on a beach or traveling the world.)

Are you ready to learn more about how our advisors can help your child customize their college experience based on their goals, their preferred learning style, and the pace at which they want to learn? Discover how Accelerated Pathways can help them earn a flexible, pay-as-you-go, no-loans-required college degree.

Interested in more resources to help choose the right educational path for you or your child? Check out these posts:

14 Reasons not to Take Out Student Loans for College How to Find Online Classes while You are Social Distancing How to Transfer Community College Credits to University


Pearson Accelerated Pathways is an online program designed to help you customize your college experience and save thousands of dollars in the process. In fact, most of our students end up graduating college in less than 4 years and without student loan debt.