Choosing a college and university is a decision that ultimately should be made by the student, but it's a decision that all of the family can help with. Colleges can provide familial benefits, and family members can help the student to think through the college search.

Searching for colleges and universities can be daunting enough without family influences making the college search process more complicated. But aside from delving into all the college information the schools provide, it's also important to learn how to avoid familial conflict and take advantage of familial benefits during this time.

Different opinions on colleges and universities

It can be beneficial to have discussions about the college options for your son or daughter, but be careful not to let disagreements hurt the relationship.

"In a duel, one of the duelers always gets shot. Pick your battles carefully, and let your child win once in a while," says a school counselor who has been there with his daughter.

Barbara, a school nurse, sadly recalls, "As a high school senior, I was bribed to attend a school my mother and grandmother wanted me to attend and received gifts all during my stay. I had decided that I would never do that to my child. I do not agree with my daughter's college choice (actually it was my last choice for her), but I will be here to support her because I feel if she is not comfortable and happy, she will not succeed in life."

Siblings can help each other in the college search process

Some of the best forms of college guides can be older siblings or other family members who have already gone through the process.

"Our kids have always been different from the moment they arrived, so it makes sense that they would react to the college search (and landing) process differently. If the kids are close in age, there can be wonderful modeling by the older child, or conversely, behavior that teaches the younger child what not to do when college time comes. What I wish would happen more is for siblings to converse, confer, and support each other through the process. I hear too much silence in families," a high school adjustment counselor observes.

Colleges and universities with familial benefits

Sometimes initial college info can be superseded by the consideration of familial benefits.

"Our son, Peter, was initially looking at colleges more than 1,000 miles from home," says Gerald. "However, his older brother had picked a college just a two-hour car drive from us and so we were able to continue to attend most of his basketball games. Peter thought that having his parents around for collegiate competitions would be a pretty nice perk, so he narrowed his radius and just considered places closer to home."