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Parents Of Seniors: Don't Sweat D-Day

By Al Neuharth

May 1, 2009 (USA TODAY) -- Today is when most high school seniors must have finalized their decision on which college or university to attend next fall.

Decision Day is a big deal because it involves so many students and their parents. Numbers:

• About 3.33 million seniors will be graduated from a high school.

• About 3 million, including some who were graduated earlier, will enter a college or university this fall.

The oldest of our six chosen (adopted) children, Alexis, 18, is among them. She will be graduated from Cocoa Beach Junior/Senior High School May 22.

As is the case with most seniors, she made multiple applications for college. She has been accepted by four, in Florida and out of state, and she was wait-listed by one. Her mother and I each have personal preferences or prejudices about where she should go. But the decision is Alexis'. She and other college applicants really can't make a serious mistake.

Here's why:

The USA has about 4,352 colleges or universities, two-year or four-year, large and small. Nearly all provide pretty good preparation for the real world.

So, if your daughter or son picks what you think is the wrong one for the wrong reason, don't sweat it. Chances are she or he probably will do well in her or his place of choice.

When choosing a kindergarten or grade school, parents should make the pick. At junior high or high school level, it should be a joint student-parent decision. When it comes to college, it should be the students' choice.

After they're 18, if they're as wise as you have tried to help them become, they'll make mostly right decisions. But if they make what seem wrong ones, that should remind us parents of some of the dumb things we did when we were kids.

Other views on decisions on college

"Some parents insist on making college choices for their children by setting parameters on prestige, academic major, cost and distance from home. Mr. Neuharth is right: Guide carefully, but let students make the final decision."

— Steven Roy Goodman, co-author, College Admissions Together: It Takes a Family

"Ideally, the choice is the student's. But it's a minority of schools that would best serve any student when the academic and social pieces are taken into account."

— Bari Norman, director of Expert Admissions, a college advisory service

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