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College preparation begins sooner than parents often realize. Parents need to know if college is a good idea and how to help children make good choices.
Academic readiness is only one factor to consider for a successful experience. Prospective students need to be able to function on their own, make good decisions, and be emotionally stable and mature. Students will face temptations at various levels that can set them up for failure. College is a point of departure – a new chapter – for young people, not for the irresponsible.
Parents Need to Start Early to Prepare Children for College
The seeds of success are planted early. Suppose parents want their children to attend college. In that case, the parents should show an appreciation for higher education as soon as the child can comprehend the importance of schooling in general. Certainly, kindergarten is a good time.
Parents should encourage success in all early learning efforts by highlighting early accomplishments. Reading to children aloud is highly recommended, as well as offering children opportunities at home to show what they are learning at school. This not only reinforces what they’ve learned but also serves as an article critique example of how to process and think critically about information. This skill will serve them well in higher education and beyond.
The home should have books and magazines available that parents can read. Reading is the most fundamental skill for success in formal learning, and children should learn to read for enjoyment. Too much television or video games should be discouraged, although many educational programs and video games can encourage learning.
The bottom line is simple: parents need to let their children know that college is essential, and children should see and hear parents demonstrate an interest in higher learning.
Parents and Children Should Agree on Reasons for College
As children approach middle school, they will hear classmates discuss education from various viewpoints, and some perspectives will not be discouraging. Parents should continue to present a pro-education view. Discussions of what children want to do when they grow up become increasingly appropriate with age.
When children begin to express realistic vocational goals, parents can arrange to visit someone involved in a job of interest. Guidance counsellors at school often have materials they can share with children. Libraries and the Internet are good sources of job descriptions, educational requirements, and salaries.
Children and parents may or may not agree on educational goals, and parents who try to force a job choice on a child may be headed for trouble. It is better that a child has a mindset for success in any respected field, has a good work ethic, and is happier than miserable in a job he does not like.
Earning a college degree is primarily about preparing for the job market. Many vocations do not require a four-year degree, and many young people prefer a short path to the working world. Small community schools offer a faster route to many good jobs in various fields.
A four-year degree is often just the beginning. Students should have guidance regarding how much of a commitment is needed for their chosen vocation.
Predictors of Success in College
The high school years are generally when students begin to get serious about education, although many head off to higher education unprepared. They may be more interested in the college experience than the benefits. Some predictors enhance a student’s chances of a successful college experience:
- Better than average performance in public school – achievement confirmed by PSAT scores
- Well-developed study habits – assignments completed on time without parental intervention
- A stable family background – student feels support away from home
- Sense of independence and good decision-making habits – priorities in order of most important things done first
- No problems with drugs or alcohol
- Life skills – can wash clothes, pack, organize surroundings, a clear idea of job choice
- Willingness to work part-time if necessary
- Ability to manage finances – can live on a budget
Many high school graduates are still getting ready for college at age 18. Keeping this in mind is wise. However, parents should insist that their high school graduates keep moving toward independence by working full-time for a year or more to enhance creativity and responsibility.
A year or two spent acquiring life skills and responsible habits can make a big difference for students not ready for college when they graduate.
How to Reduce College Costs
Parents and students should be concerned with the ever-increasing costs of college. Of course, there are many scholarships, large and small, from thousands of sources for students who are academically talented or who possess unique creative gifts.
The Federal Student Aid Office offers over $112 billion to 14 million students and their families. It is a reliable place to start. Counsellors have access to many resources about scholarships.
Private schools tend to be more expensive than public ones. A quality education can be obtained at many public schools—various agencies rate state educational institutions.
The business of education has spawned numerous for-profit colleges. Many of these are significant and widespread. Before choosing a for-profit college, students should research it thoroughly. They are not necessarily a cheaper or better route.
Generally speaking, people with college degrees make significantly more money over a lifetime than those without a degree, but the dropout rate for first-year college students is 30%. Parents must work closely with children to encourage the college experience and recognize the skills needed for success. Parents should begin early to prepare their children for college.
As the journey through education progresses, the role of parents in laying the groundwork for a successful college experience is irreplaceable. Encouragement, practical life skills, and a strong sense of responsibility are as crucial as academic preparedness. Parents who engage early, fostering a love for learning and an appreciation for the value of higher education, set their children on a path toward not only academic success but also personal growth and professional fulfilment.
Understanding that college preparation is more than just good grades—it’s about cultivating independent, well-rounded individuals—parents can genuinely make a difference in their children’s readiness for the challenges and opportunities that higher education presents. With mindful planning and supportive guidance, parents can help ensure their children are college-bound and college-ready, equipped for both the rigor of academics and the test of life away from home.
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post