Now that my son is entering high school, I plan to talk to him about college by sharing some helpful information to set his expectations and to impart upon him why college is an essential investment in his future. Here are some key points I plan to make:
College is your ticket to freedom and opportunity. Not only will you earn more if you graduate from college, but it’ll open up a wide array of possibilities in terms of career choices, places to live and ways to be a force for positive change in the world. According to a 2014 study by the Pew Center, Millennials with a college degree earn $45K per year vs. $28K per year for those with a high school diploma. Those with a college degree also suffer lower unemployment rates and are less likely to live in poverty or with their parents.
There is a college for every student. Don’t become overly focused on the same few colleges you hear your friends talk about. There are thousands of colleges and universities out there looking for students. Focus on finding the ones that are a good fit for you and what you are looking for in a college experience. Visit as many campuses as possible over the next few years to get a feel for the many different options.
Be the best student you can be. Getting good grades is important for two reasons: it’ll enhance your ability to get into competitive schools and it’ll increase the amount of free money many schools will offer you to convince you to attend. Many schools offer merit aid to students based on GPA and SAT/ACT test scores that help lower the cost of attending college. Focus on doing work you are proud of. Good grades will follow. However, if on the cusp of getting an A-, put in a bit of extra effort as any A counts as 4 points, whereas any B only counts as 3 points in your GPA.
Explore your interests and passions. In addition to focusing on your schoolwork, explore a wide range of extracurricular activities, such as clubs, athletics, jobs and community service. The goal is to figure out what you are good at and what you are passionate about. Having a good understanding of these things will help you decide what to study in college and what type of career might be of interest. It might even help narrow the list of colleges you apply to.
High school is an essential time in your child’s life. Hopefully, with your guidance and support, they can balance the many challenges while also getting a good education and figuring out who they want to be in the world