There is no denying that statistically, college graduates possess greater financial earning power than non-graduates. That being said, college is not for everyone. However, for those that so aspire, it is the process more than the particular institution that ultimately is of value. A parent may best guide their teen by considering the following tips:
College is school. If a teen is not comfortable in school and has not enjoyed the experience nor has had success, college following high school might not be the appropriate option. Success in a college setting requires a positive attitude and a practiced set of skills. A teen who has consistently produced low-level high school work is going to be frustrated by the demands of a college setting, and will probably drop out.
Statistics show that significantly more than half of all high school students that are accepted to a college fail to make it past the second year. Military options, business or trade schools or employment may be a better fit for some students following high school graduation. Many individuals return to continuing education at a later time in life when they are emotionally and mentally more prepared.
Make sure the teen is going for the right reason. Often teens enter into the process because they think it is what they are supposed to do. They choose schools based on ESPN, party reputation, or the choices of friends.
Prior to choosing a school, the teen should have a general idea of a preferred specialization, the demographics of that school, a plan to visit the school; including at least a night’s stay over, and an understanding as to travel arrangements and budgetary concerns. Although going to the wrong school or for the wrong reason is not an irreversible step, it can be costly both in time and expense.
College applications cost money. Prior to sending an application to a school, take the time to be sure a student has a reasonable chance at acceptance. Compare SAT, ACT, and similar test scores, as well as student GPA to the required levels of that school. The average student need not send more than three applications according to the priority of preference. There is no reason to rush out an application to the community colleges. Most have rolling admissions allowing students to apply at almost any time prior to the start of a semester.
A college education is expensive. As sophisticated as a teen may be, there is still the general naivete as to the impact paying for a college education may have on one’s future and a family’s current financial situation. There is a significant gap between being accepted to a university and paying for it.
A teen should be exposed to family income and expenses to help come to terms with implied limitations. As necessary, a teen may need to accept that he may have to spend the first two years of higher education at a local community college. Doing so will not only save on tuition, but also on housing, cost of seasonal travel, and allow for a more significant part-time job to save for those final two years.
Financial aid is more realistic than scholarships. If one or two students from any one high school obtain full athletic scholarships it is exceptional. Full sports scholarships are rare. It is more likely that scholarships will come from academics and music programs, and still rarely meet half the cost of tuition.
Financial aid is more realistic. Be sure to visit the FAFSA website. It is a free process. Pay attention to the deadlines. Although individual accounts can be opened at any time, the required information must be provided prior to June 30th but may vary by state. Financial aid is on a first-come, first-served basis, and once it is gone, there is no more for that year.
Maintain contact with the school’s guidance counselor. Often the counselor has contacts with particular schools based on the history of prior student acceptance. Not only will the counselor have a sense as to whether or not a particular student will be accepted, but may also help facilitate the process.
Guidance counselors are also a source of programs that are based on specific demographics, such as those set aside for minorities, special needs students, or the impoverished. Do not be shy about taking advantage of programs for which you may qualify. Feel free to call for an appointment. Most high school guidance counselors have regularly scheduled night hours to meet with working parents at more convenient times.
Private Universities are not necessarily better than State schools. There is no denying the value of a college education at one of the institutions ranked in the top 10% of the country, or from Ivy League schools. Beyond those schools, however, it is the process that is of value to the student more so than the institution name on the diploma. Prospective employers readily acknowledge the quality, perseverance, and fortitude of those candidates that meet the college graduate requirement.
Ultimately, do not rely on luck or serendipity to get your teen into college. Sit together and create a plan. Discuss possible career choices and degrees based on interest and aptitudes. Use the web to take virtual tours of suitable institutions.
Configure a workable budget based on reasonably available funds and minimal loans. Pay close attention to application details and deadlines. And remember: it is a process, and it is that process that is the commodity of value.