If the pursuit of a college degree is in your child's future, it's vital to be proactive in your research and preparedness.
Sarah Young, a counselor at Rockford High School, actively encourages parents to discuss college with their children, learn more about their career interests, and then find colleges that provide those programs—sooner than you think you need to.
"Students should begin to expose themselves to college information early," said Young, adding that there's plenty of time before a commitment has to be made, financial or otherwise.
"We don't push students to pinpoint their chosen college until well after they begin applying to colleges in the early fall of their senior year. Students do not typically have to commit to their chosen university until May 1st of their senior year."
Rockford High School provides students with assessments relative to career, skills, and abilities as well as career and school selectors, so they can begin researching early. Additionally, the school offers juniors a college transition class called STEPS (formally Student Transition Education Preparation Skills), where SAT/ACT test prep is also available.
Parents are often seeking additional guidance on clear career options for their students, Young notes, and usually have questions regarding financial aid and scholarships.
"If families are going to commit to paying for college, they want to be sure students are making realistic career goals that will result in not only long-term happiness, but financial stability also."
Young recommends students take the following steps when preparing for college:
- Take strong academic curriculum in high school in a variety of subjects and use teachers as resources. You never know what class or conversation may spark a passion for a prospective career field!
- Visit colleges whenever possible—even if via virtual tour. Many college websites have online visit requests for which families can register.
- Find mentors in their field of interest and participate in job shadows.
- Peruse the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook for long-term job outlooks.
Remind children: The biggest institutions aren't always the best and there's no shame in attending community college. Because SAT/ACT scores matter—despite what other students might say—stress the importance of taking testing seriously and investing in test prep.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for West Michigan Woman.
This article originally appeared in West Michigan Woman.