First children are always the guinea pigs of the family. Parents experiment with them and learn how parenthood works. They understand that once you have children, life doesn’t always go as planned. Our oldest, who recently turned 18, is also our guinea pig when it comes to college. We’ve learned that there are significant mistakes we made in the college process with him. Luckily, we’re learning from these experiences, so hopefully, we’ll be smarter with the college process with our younger two children.
Not Having a Backup Plan
My husband and I have always worked in education. I worked at a community college until I quit after our third child was born, and my husband has worked at two different universities.
We didn’t have money to save for college when our kids were young, but we weren’t concerned because we knew that our children could receive a tuition discount if they went to college where my husband worked. Between that discount and the scholarship our son received, he could have lived at home and gone to college for free.
However, life doesn’t always work out as we plan.
Moving After His Senior Year
My husband had been looking for a job for the past 18 months. He had interviewed and made it to the final rounds for four different jobs. However, none worked out. He applied for one more this past February, and we decided if he didn’t get that one, we’d quit looking until after our oldest finished college.
Luckily, for my husband’s career, he got the job. However, the job required a move across the country. While the job pays much more than his current position, it’s not at a university, so we no longer have a college tuition discount.
In addition, our son hadn’t applied to any of the nearby colleges in the new location because we didn’t know we’d be here. He missed out on the prime time for college admissions and scholarships. Now, he’s stuck applying only 6 to 8 weeks before college begins.
Not Specifying How Much We Would Contribute
Some parents tell their children what amount they have to contribute to their college education. Then, the children can use that amount as a basis to help them determine which colleges they will attend based on affordability. We never had that discussion because we didn’t think we had to; our child knew he could get a substantial tuition discount.
Now, we don’t know how much we can afford to pay because we’re moving to a new geographic area of the country and still aren’t sure how much typical monthly expenses will be. That makes determining affordability difficult.
The three mistakes we made during the college process have made the experience more difficult for our son than it needed to be. We had a unique set of circumstances that, hopefully, won’t happen to our younger children.
However, we’ve learned from our mistakes and will now be saving for their college tuition and setting a limit for them that we can pay.
Melissa is a writer and virtual assistant. She earned her Master’s from Southern Illinois University, and her Bachelor’s in English from the University of Michigan. When she’s not working, you can find her homeschooling her kids, reading a good book, or cooking. She resides in Arizona where she dislikes the summer heat but loves the natural beauty of the area.