Guest post by Salman Khan, founder of Hidayah Services.
Often when we think of college advice our mind immediately jumps to high school students and how they need to keep their GPAs up, study for their SATs, and be involved in various extracurricular activities. We focus on what students need to work on and how we can ensure they plan successfully for the college process. While I would agree that student planning is vital to the success of all college applications, one aspect constantly overlooked is the role of the parent.
Parents usually do one of two things. Either they stay completely aloof from the whole college process and let their student deal with it alone or they involve themselves too much without really knowing what is best for their child. Parents in the second category are similar to backseat drivers; they direct their students without really knowing what the right directions are. They give directions based on what they believe to be correct, and not based on fact. Unfortunately, both categories approach the situation incorrectly; the second representing the majority of parents and being the worse of the two. Parents need to instead, put themselves in the passenger seat and be their student’s wingman. And, the main way parents need to support their children, after accepting the fact that they are in the driver’s seat, is financially.
Financial planning is a responsibility of the parent as much as proper academic planning is a responsibility of the student. Parents need to mentally and literally prepare for the tens of thousands of dollars that college will cost. An unfortunate reality present within the Muslim community is when students that have the capability to attend great schools attend community colleges instead, because they cannot afford anything else. Regrettably, there are many examples of various situations where money is a major problem to a student’s education. Our students are bright beyond measure, but when we hinder their growth and do not give them the opportunity to properly excel we are committing a great injustice. This needs to stop.
Parents need to follow three key steps:
- Parents need to start saving up as early as 7th grade, if not earlier, for their child’s college tuition. This may be a difficult step, especially if parents are sending their students to private or Islamic schools, but this is absolutely critical. Just $5 a day can yield $1,800+ a year, $10, can yield $3,600+ a year, and so on and so forth. A proper plan needs to be in place from early on.
- Parents need to ensure that proper bookkeeping (especially in regards to tax forms) is practiced, so that when it comes time to fill out the FAFSA, everything is accurate and already prepared.
- Parents need to create and maintain channels of open communication from early on, so that if need be students can contribute to their college fund as well. Although, the burden should in no way be on the student, students should contribute to their college fund. This can be a powerful motivator for students and help them want to succeed. The partnership between student and parent will bring the two closer and make them both feel invested inshAllah.
The bottom line is that students need their parents to be fiscally responsible and aware of the challenges that college presents in regards to finances. Parents need to be their student’s wingman and make sure their students can attend any college they get accepted to. Students should be responsible for the academic execution and parents the financial.