Sunday, October 07, 2007

College or Bust?

I work with high school juniors and seniors who have already made the leap to college as full time dual enrolled students. However, my seniors are most concerned with where they will go when they finish at this community college. They are all on the road to bigger and better things.

College isn't for everyone, but there are some interesting statistics that may help you encourage your child to think twice if he or she is choosing to forgo a college education:

(From the U.S. Department of Education - 2004)

  • A high school dropout earned $22,100 per year in 2001

  • A high school graduate earned $30,056

  • A college graduate earned $54,704

  • In 1998, the male college graduate, aged 25 - 34, earned 63% more than his counterpart who did not attend college

That's interesting. But consider this:

  • Roughly 2 out of 3 young Americans do not go on to any form of higher education

  • Many of those that do go on to higher education don't end up graduating

  • Almost half of those who never enrolled or dropped out said college wasn't for them because they wanted to work and make money

  • But who makes more money?

Going to and graduating college is not all about making money. But if college is a value your family subscribes to, it's advisable to learn as much as you can as early as you can about stepping out on that journey. As the mother of two sons just about to launch into that world, I'm here to say that it is not an easy process. In fact it can be quite complicated and stressful.

Sandra Berger wrote a book about this journey for parents called College Planning for Gifted Students. Her information is invaluable whether or not your child was identified as "gifted." All of our children have gifts and talents. Their post-secondary experiences should nurture those gifts.

Like every journey, it's a good idea to follow a map or set of directions towards your destination. College Planning for Gifted Students offers just that - a timeline beginning in seventh grade. Here is a sampling of that timeline:

7th Grade

  • If your family hasn't started saving for college, start now.

  • Take time to learn about yourself - your strengths and weaknesses.

  • Begin to think about your aspirations and goals.

  • Many 7th graders take the SAT or ACT in order to become eligible for talent search programs as well as other opportunities. Consider taking it between 7th and 8th grade.

  • Look for opportunities to do volunteer work.

  • find out more in College Planning for Gifted Students

8th Grade

  • Discuss your transition to high school with parents and counselor. Select courses that are as challenging as you think you can handle.

  • Get better at managing your time. Create a 4 year plan.

  • Plan a summer program that taps into your aspirations, skills, or talents

  • Look for opportunities to do volunteer work

  • find out more in College Planning for Gifted Students

9th Grade

  • Choose extracurricular activities you want to be involved in. Choose some that include community service or leadership opportunities.

  • Take as many challenging courses as you can.

  • Read widely. Exposure to different kinds of material will improve your vocabulary.

  • Explore the career center at your school or online.

  • Volunteer!

  • find out more in College Planning for Gifted Students.

10th Grade

  • The PSAT/NMSQT is given in October. Take it for practice. This year it is free. In 11th grade, your PSAT scores are used to determine your eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship and other scholarship opportunities.

  • Become familiar with the College Board website and start to research possible colleges.

  • Visit a nearby college and take a tour.

  • Plan a meaningful summer activity. Consider an internship, volunteer work, travel, or spend time with someone who works in a career that interests you.

  • Sign up for challening courses for 11th grade.

  • find out more in College Planning for Gifted Students

11th Grade

  • Discuss college plans with your parents and counselor. Doing this early on helps everyone help you.

  • Begin a college search process. Attend College Night at your school or go to an area college fair. Keep a file on each school that interests you.

  • Take the October PSAT.

  • Take the SAT or ACT as practice. If you don't get the score you like, you have time to take it again before mid Fall of your senior year. A combination of the best scores will be accepted by colleges.

  • Keep your academic achievement up. Maintain a high GPA.

  • Volunteer!

  • find out more in College Planning for Gifted Students.

12th Grade

  • Review your list of college and their admissions criteria. Send for applications or go online and review the application there.

  • Retake the SAT or ACT if you want to improve your score.

  • Identify at least two teachers who know you well enough to write a letter of recommendation for you.

  • Begin the scholarship search at either or Complete and mail the FAFSA electronically after January 1.

  • Carefully review your high school transcript and make sure everything is in order.

  • Maintain or raise your GPA. Colleges may revoke acceptance if your grades fall at the end of the year.

  • Keep volunteering!

  • find out more in College Planning for Gifted Students.

As a parent you can be an encouragement and support to your child on this journey without becoming overwhelming or overbearing. It is, after all, his or her journey - not yours. Be well informed and nudge when you have to, but don't run the show.