To college or not to college, that is the decision. We have two young men in college as I type this. They have just completed their junior year. We have twins. Over the last few years people have asked how we went through this process with two at the same time. Well, to be honest, I really wouldn’t know how people do things with one child since we have only ever had our two. This is the first in a blog series on our college process. I hope it will help some of you along the way. I am not a professional, we didn’t pay someone to help us either. We are parents just like you. We wanted what was best for our boys and this series is about how we got from point A to point B.
Options. Today, there are many options for kids graduating from high school. Technical/Trade schools, Community College, University and work life then maybe college or trade. In reality, you don’t have to go to college. Many young adults graduating from high school don’t. It isn’t for every child. Each child has their own path. It is your job as their parent to help them to figure it out along the way. It isn’t a clear decision for any child. Making this decision is a long process. At least that is how we approached it.
Be proactive. You can’t sit on the sidelines and hope that someone else will help your child through this. Not your high school, not your friends, not your mom. You. This is part of your job as a parent.
Is your child the first? My father was the first one to go to college in his family. He was the middle child of 11. His family was not wealthy, they weren’t even middle class. My father went to college after two years in the Navy while working full-time, married and by the time he graduated he and my mother had two children. Because he was the first in his family, he started the trend. Each generation after has had more children choose this path. Everyone after him knew that you can come from humble beginnings, work hard and achieve more than you thought possible.
For me and my siblings, we knew it would be an option. I went fresh out of high school, but lived at home and worked 30 hours a week. Both of my brothers went away, one to college and the other to a culinary school. My husband also went to college after the Navy and while we were married. We ate a lot of plain pasta during those lean years. Our twins arrived a little over a year after he graduated. That is our history.
Start the discussion. We started the discussion with our sons about the middle of 7th grade. We talked with our sons about the options available. We talked about their interests and how to get there. We discussed our own college experiences. We discussed trade schools, going the community college to college route and also straight to college. We didn’t really do a sit down and hash it all out in one sitting, but it was there. It was part of what they thought about and asked us about from time to time.
I knew from friends and teachers that there were several factors that colleges looked at when determining whether to accept a student or not. We wanted our sons high school experience to reflect what their goals were. Once they decided that they would most like go the direct to college route, we talked about what that would mean during their high school years.
Finances. Our sons were good students, but they knew that because of finances, that college would be all on them for tuition, room and board. We were clear about that.
We are “middle class”. I really hate that phrase. The range of income is huge. Let me be clear with those out there. What does that really mean? It means that we can’t pay for college out of our everyday pockets. It also means that we fall into that funky category where the powers that be think we can. Seriously. I really had to laugh at what they thought we could pay on a yearly basis. No, they do not look at what your monthly bills are to determine this amount.
It also means that there is very little in the way of scholarships, grants etc when you fall into this category. It just isn’t there. That means student and/or parent loans. It means your child and/or you working more. It means your child really needs to stand out somehow to get a scholarship. Those scholarships mean fitting into a category and having the grades, test scores and extracurricular activities to obtain them. It means filling out a lot of forms and focusing your efforts.
We did student loans for my husbands college tuition. Our sons knew that scholarships and student loans would be part of the discussion and part of their decision should they decide to go to college.
Know your deadlines. Are you reading this and already have a sophomore or junior? Don’t worry, it can totally still happen. Start looking at deadlines. Talk to people. PSAT? SAT? ACT? AP Classes? SAT Subject Tests? Look them up and see what they are and if there are upcoming deadlines. Create and use a plan of action. Not a planner and don’t know where to start. You are on the internet reading this blog. Use it to find a timeline that someone has already made.
Are you overwhelmed by all this? We were. That is the simple truth. Doing it with two was an organizers nightmare. We survived and you will too. I am letting you know that you need to think about this process, have these discussions and plan.
For us, it was all about giving our sons options. In order to have options, they needed to be prepared. Whether or not your child ultimately makes the decision to go to college depends on your child. We had this discussion multiple times during the process. We also always let them know that the decision was ultimately theirs, every step if the way. They knew we would support them no matter what they decided. We wanted our children to be able to make informed decisions and to make the right decision for themselves, Zach and Josh. Not mom and dad, not Arlington High School and certainly not societies view. Only Josh. Only Zach.
Talk to your kids. Once you do that and they decide that college may be what they want to do, encourage them to take the right classes, make good choices during high school, be a part of life out there and enjoy it at the same time. Then move on to Step 2…….College visits, fairs and information nights!
Questions? Message me! I will gladly answer them.