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Is College for Everyone?

As the parent of three teenagers, my wife and I faced this question honestly. The answer in our case was surely not! Three different individuals with three different personalities, social skills, and academic abilities chose three different options. One chose to go to community college and earn an Associate Arts certificate. Another chose to see if the community college was an open door to further education and went no further. The last one chose a four year college and later graduate school.

The choices facing teens and their parents are serious ones and depend upon a list of factors, including academic achievement and potential, finances and the availability of two or four year institutions. Let's look at each of these factors.

Questions to Consider

First, what is the level of academic achievement that has been evidenced in high school? While this may not be a complete indicator of future achievement, a parent must start somewhere. Students who have shown academic talent and have consistently high grades should certainly consider college. For sophomores and juniors of this school year, a visit to colleges or universities before choosing should be a priority.

Many students are not ready or eligible for a four year university/college and its demands. The community college system is ideal in several respects:

  • It allows the student who has mediocre grades to discover collegiate disciplines more slowly than the demands of a four year college.
  • It may be more financially sound for a family with a limited income.
  • A student can work and help support his own education while saving for the rigorous demands of a four year institution.

Second, he or she may be eligible for financial aid or scholarships (see your high school counselor to find out more). Did you know that millions of dollars go unclaimed each year because students and parents did not inquire and apply? Parents who feel that financing a college education is beyond their means should investigate this. Often there are companies who will match the grant if a parent works for them.

Finally, how ready is the teen to live independently? While this is a question each family must answer for itself, some teens are ready and some, simply put, are not. A transition experience, such as the community college or working for a time, can provide the answers for families. Gradually giving your teen more independence is important, but parents must act rationally and thoughtfully before packing up a son or daughter for the college experience without a confident assurance that, despite the mistakes and errors in judgement that will invitably be made, he or she is ready for that important next step.

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Contributed by: Guidance Counselor Cliff Cole

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