Tips for Dads of the College-Bound


tips for dadsWith all the advice for moms, one of my Twitter followers (@PeachtreeCP) chimed in: “What about tips for dads?” I had to respond, “I’m not a dad, so I can’t speak for them.” But, it occurred to me that I did know some dads, one in particular, my brother. Both his children went to college. His daughter had a relatively typical college experience. His son, on the other hand, always marched, and still does, to the beat of a different drummer.

When I asked my brother to share his best advice, man to man, he graciously agreed to help. Here’s his response, word for word:

I’m not sure where to begin.  I assume that the dad who wrote you wanted advice about the college process.  I guess I’ll just share how I approached this with Cameron.  Since he’s not the typical kid, my approach was unique to him.  But this is how I did it.

  • I gave guidance, but didn’t try to push him into my expectations for him
  • I stressed the importance of education while he was thinking about what to do after high school
  • I tried to show him how his interests (video production, photography, etc.) would be greatly enhanced by more education
  • I gave him permission to make mistakes and take his time in determining his major
  • I didn’t give him a completely free ride to college – we required that he have some investment
  • I encouraged him to get a job while going to school
  • I encouraged him not to get into debt with loans, but to pay as he could, semester by semester
  • I finally recognized that college may not be his thing, so I gave him permission to say, “I want to do something else”, then I gave him my blessing

In retrospect, I think we could have done a better job of setting him up for a better first year away at college.  We found a garage apartment for him to live in, but he lived alone.  I think it would have been a better experience for him if he had other roommates going through the same struggles at college.


Cameron chose to get a “real life” education, self-taught on the entrepreneurial route. It has not been an easy path, but he has certainly discovered his strengths and weaknesses while learning much about himself through self-discovery. He’s working at a job in a field he loves: video production.

For all you dads out there, the key here, according to my brother, is to know your child, give guidance when needed, stress the importance of an education, and give them the freedom to explore their own path in life. The college prep process has it’s own set of challenges and fathers can provide that stabilizing influence and strong support their college-bound teen needs.

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3 Responses to “Tips for Dads of the College-Bound”

  1. I am a father of two students currently in college and have worked with high school and college age students for over 20 years. I agree with most of the advice above and would add that it is important your student is heading in the direction of some goal. It doesn’t really matter what the goal is (pick a school, get a certain GPA, graduate by a certain date, pick a major by a certain date) and they can choose to change the goal in the future. What’s important is that they have a clear goal to work towards. One of the biggest roadblocks to success for college students is just kind of bopping along with the crowd and doing what everyone else is doing in regards to pursuing a degree. Many parents think that as long as their student is IN college, all is well; when in reality many students will find themselves at graduation still not sure of where they are headed or what they want to do. “I don’t know” is a great and honest answer to questions about the future. Be sure to then take the time to learn about yourself and your situation. The problem lies in sitting in the state of ‘I don’t know’ for too long. The student who does the hard work of really thinking through their purpose and direction will have a much better shot at achieving success in college and beyond than the student who is waiting for the market or someone else to tell them where to go or what to do.