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How to Build College Knowledge

What things are essential for your student to know about college before they get to high school?

1. Students need to know how to “speak college.” The path to college is intimidating and complicated enough! It’s made worse by the fact that most students enter high school completely unfamiliar with the unique college-going terminology, and unprepared for the volume of information they’ll receive about college, college selection, preparation, and the college application process. Just the ability to “speak the language” of college goes a long way toward building the confidence students need to navigate the (overly)complicated process. .

2. Students need to know what’s in it for them. There are dozens of life long economic and social benefits of college. Students need to explore how those benefits translate meaningfully into their lives. Some may connect to the benefits by comparing the chance to work at their dream job one day instead of serving up fries for the rest of their life. Others may appreciate that through college, they’ll build an extensive social network of friends and acquaintances. Others may respond to the economic benefits — college graduates make more money, which ultimately gets them stuff like tickets to awesome concerts, nice threads, or travel. Think that’s shallow? It’s not. Those are the kinds of things that make up quality of life.

3. Students need a dose of reality.  It’s a little unnerving for students, but they need to know that after high school, they face several decades (like 40-50 years) in the workforce before retirement. Have students calculate their age and the year it will when they retire, assuming they are in the workforce for 40, 45, and 50 years. You may see even the most college-resistant student amenable to the discussion of how a solid postsecondary education will make that time more successful, meaningful, and enjoyable.

4. Some students need a double dose of reality. “I-don’t-need-a-college-education-to-pursue-my- dream”  is a fantasy right up there with unicorns. In today’s world everyone needs some level of postsecondary prep, whether it’s college, Career Tech Education, fine art academy, community college, or the military. Admission to everything is competitive. A strong college prep is the very best way to be prepared for any opportunity or challenge that comes their way. As part of a strong college readiness program, students should explore, not just traditional college, but alternatives such as fine art academies, career tech ed, community college, U.S. Military Service — even attending university overseas.

5. Students (and parents) need to know how to pay for college. Ok, sure, there are a few students who are fortunate to have college finances in the bag, but the overwhelming majority of students simply cannot pay for college. Yet colleges are full of students! What’s up with that? Students need to know that even if they can’t afford college, they (like everyone else) will manage it. It helps, however, to plan ahead. A solid college knowledge program teaches students early on about loans, grants, and scholarships. Students should be encouraged in their first year of high school to research and target scholarships, and create action plans detailing how, over the next four years, they’ll  work at qualifying for the targeted scholarships. Qualifying for a scholarship is a four year process.

The Middle School Student’s Guide to  College.

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