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, and it is not for the irresponsible.
Parents Need to Start Early to Prepare Children for College
The seeds of success are planted early. If parents want their children to attend college then 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 be sure to encourage success is all early learning efforts by paying attention to early accomplishments. Reading to children aloud is highly recommended as is offering children opportunities at home to show what they are learning at school.
The home should have books and magazines available that parents read. Reading is the most fundamental skill for success in learning at all formal learning and children should learn to read for enjoyment. Too much television or too many video games are to be discouraged, although there are many educational programs and video games that can encourage learning.
The bottom line is simple: parents need to let their children know that college is important 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 who is involved in a job of interest. Guidance counselors 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 mind-set for success in any respected field, has a good work ethic, and be happy in his job than to be 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 lots of young people prefer a short path to the working world. Small community schools offer a faster route to many good jobs in a variety of fields.
A four-year degree is often just a beginning. Students should have guidance regarding how much of a commitment is needed for the vocation they choose.
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. There are predictors that 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 on 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 not ready for college at age 18. Keeping this in mind is wise. But parents should insist that their high school graduate keep moving toward independence by working fulll-time for a year or more.
A year or two spent acquiring life skills and responsible habits can make a big difference with students who are not ready for college when they graduate.
How to Reduce College Costs
Parents and students should be concerned with 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 special creative gifts.
The Federal Student Aid Office offers over $100 billion in aid to 14 million students and their families. It is a reliable place to start. Counselors 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. State educational institutions are rated by various agencies.
The business of education has spawned numerous for-profit colleges. Many of these are quite large 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 college freshmen is 30%. Parents need to work closely with children to encourage the college experience and recognize what skills are needed for success. Parents should begin early to prepare children for college.