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Staying Involved: Why Dads Should Guide Kids to College

2 minutes

A few years back, my family and I were visiting my grandmother in Michigan. She is a feisty Scottish “lass,” who is one of the few links I have left to my heritage and a world and time quickly fading away. At one point during our visit, my kids asked for lunch and I prepared some food for them.

This was shocking to my Grandmother. She pointed out that in her day, it was simply unheard of for men to take such menial household tasks upon themselves. She expressed surprise over how many more young men are now present and helpful in the household.

I had undertaken my actions that morning as normal events, neither heroic nor remarkable, but being easily swayed by compliments, I felt good about myself for the rest of the day.

Upon further reflection, I realized that this was probably not the first time in history that a man had fed his children and it was probably not going to be the last. So in sadness, I descended from the tower of self-congratulation I had constructed in my mind.

Nonetheless, Grandma’s words have always stayed with me, and over the past eight years working at Seton, I have seen truth in her observation. So many of the fathers and husbands in our program strive to be present in their children’s lives and educations in an uncommonly heroic way.

As children start into high school and become more independent in their schooling, it can become more difficult for fathers to find ways to continue that high level of engagement. One area where dads can be an incredible help is in the process of applying for college.

So many families view this process as a grueling obstacle course from which they cannot escape, but I believe it should be viewed as an opportunity for families to grow closer.

I can almost hear the hundreds of eyes rolling in unison at that last sentence, but it is true. To give good college advice, fathers must have a good idea of their children’s strengths, weaknesses, interests, etc.

Talking with our kids about these things can help us learn so much about each other, to discover things we may not have known before. To not only show interest, but also a willingness to actively participate in such a momentous decision as choosing a college, is powerful.

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Fathers, stay involved early and often. There are so many criteria involved in choosing the right college, from the spiritual to the financial, so coming up with the list of acceptable and realistic colleges should be done first.

While we should be respectful of the wishes of our young adults, there are also times when we can’t be afraid to exercise veto power! If possible, take a trip together to see campuses and speak with school representatives.

Applying to college also requires regular checkups and maintenance. Keep tabs on how your child is doing in school, as grade point average is the major determining factor for many schools. It wouldn’t do much good if you helped your student make a list of dream colleges, only to find out later that he or she didn’t meet the minimum requirements. And don’t forget about the SAT and ACT. You can help your student study by administering practice tests in a timed setting.

As always, we at Seton are here to help with any of these tasks. I know the old stereotype about men not wanting to stop and ask for directions, but in this case, please feel comfortable doing so.

Some of my favorite conversations at Seton have been with fathers looking to guide their kids through the college-application process. Their stories and experiences are what lead me to suggest that the process can be an extremely positive experience; it has been for many of our homeschooling families.

About Christopher Smith

Christopher Smith
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Christopher Smith is the Director of Guidance at Seton. He has an M.A. in National Security and Statecraft from the Institute of World Politics in Washington D.C. He received a B.A. in Philosophy from Christendom College and is currently working on an M.S. in Education from Franciscan University.
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