The college experience of families comes in numerous configurations.
Some families have had generations of members proudly attend the same school and expect the latest generation to continue the tradition. Other families are dreaming of the day they can watch the very first member of their family take the stage to receive their college diploma. But what all families have in common is motivating a teen to pursue higher education.
In the Early Years
Create a foundation of subtle expectations. Tell your children about your experiences at college. Paint a picture of friendships, new found independence and opportunities. Tell them about your dorm and how advanced classes have gotten over the years (like using eTextbooks and other online resources).
Ask them what they think they’d like to study or be when they grow up. These conversations naturally lead into the necessary requirements for making those dreams realities. Even if your child tells you they want to be something not normally associated with a college, you can still find ways to incorporate it into them.
For instance, say your five-year-old son tells you that he wants to make donuts when he grows up. Though that may not coincide with your plans for him, this is a great opportunity to encourage him to achieve that goal. You can suggest that he study math and business management to run a business and work with people he hired someday. You can then point out that attending would be the way to acquire those skills.
In a couple of years, that young man may have a path developed to start out working at a donut shop to pay for college and then learn how to buy and manage his own business. Who knows how the story will evolve in his case? But the point is clear – start early and show your children how college will work for them. Don’t make it a must. Make it attractive to fit their visions for themselves. Children are much more likely to do things if they think it was their idea. But you help shape those ideas.
During High School and Beyond
As the time approaches for real decisions to be made about their futures, children may resist or become overwhelmed. But if each step is broken down into smaller pieces it will seem less daunting. The SAT practice test is a great way to discover strengths and weaknesses prior to taking the actual test. While preparing for the SAT test, focus studying on the areas that are in most need of improvement.
Have your children apply to schools that match their interests, their need for distance or proximity to home, the campus culture and overall size. Remind your teen that the first year or two they should take classes in the area they are interested in, but that they should try some other classes too. Life has a funny way of opening doors when we are willing to try new things.
While the traditional 4-year college continues to flourish, technology brings us more and more creative ways to attend and benefit from college with less expense and travel. Online college courses are often accepted as transfer credits to traditional Universities and free online college-level can introduce a difficult topic before taking it in person. What could be more convenient than taking an online class or reading eTextbooks on your tablet wherever you go?
So for all different families waiting to watch their child get that diploma – remember, there are many ways to cross the finish line.