If you are like me, then you dream, rather expect that your child will go to college. Growing up in my parent’s household, for us children that was just a given. There was never a question as to going to college. We just were. No if, ands, or buts about it. In fact, it really was not even a discussion. It was just assumed. But that small decision, that small affirmation, that small concrete fact, was just the tip of an enormous mountain of “how”.
How are they going to get into college? How are we going to pay for it? How do we guide our child to decide which is best? How do we help our child decide what to major in? How do they decide what they want to do when they grow up? That journey does not have to be as daunting as it sounds. It can be a time to learn more about your child, help them grow and help them to think outside the box.
For as long as I can remember, with the exception of this one summer where I thought I would be a private investigator (what can I say…Remington Steele reruns at midnight got the better of me), the plan was to get the best grades possible, go to Duke University, pre-med and move on to become a doctor. It expanded to neurosurgeon when my mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I grew up with the understanding, at least my understanding, my job was to bust my butt to get the grades, tuition was mostly covered since my mother worked at Duke and the rest would figure itself out.
Life has a way of, well, changing. Its what life does and in this case I was glad. Obviously I’m not a neurosurgeon. Here’s how. My mother and I moved to Southern California in my junior year of high school. Goodbye Duke tuition being mostly paid. My father passed away and I re-evaluated just how I wanted to spend my life. Goodbye neurosurgeon and hello, what do I really want. Suddenly what was once mapped out and seemed so simple and a done deal turned into uncertainty and complicated and expensive.
By using some college admittance savvy, good advice and some plan old fashion figuring it out, I managed to graduate from a private university (not Duke) with top honors. I had the degree I wanted rather than what I thought others wanted me to be. It was one that provided real life, hands on experience in my industry. I loved my entire college experience and only spent about $15,000 total on my entire education. These days with in-state tuition starting around that price, that’s a huge accomplishment. It actually taught me a whole lot to pass on to others.
My stepson is a junior in high school and we have started this “getting into college” process with him. I had a lot of hands on experiential knowledge to pull from but I knew I needed to reach out and learn more. Beginning when he was a freshman, I started pulling from everywhere I could – anything the school district offer, talking to counselors, taking notes from personal connections, and listening for common threads. What I learned from my own experience combined with what I am continuing to learn as we journey with my stepson has been so priceless, I just can’t keep it to myself.
So I am going to do an on going series that will post periodically over the next 18 months on college and everything surrounding your child going to college. Its a pretty big topic to unpack and there are a lot of changes going on in many aspects of it such as the change in the SAT I. Below are some of the topics I’ll be looking at during the course of the series:
Funding an Education
Tests and Testing: What Are They and Why Are They Needed
Majors and Minors: How Do I Select One and Why Its Important
Selecting Colleges to Apply To: There is More Than Division I Schools
Application and Essay Savvy
What Should I Be Doing When
Financial Aid: More Forms and Applications
The Financial Aid Packet
Getting Into College is More Than Getting Out of High School
On Campus, Off Campus, Commute?
In State, Out of State, Public and Private, Junior, Four Year or Trade School: What are the Pros and Cons
What Should My Child Focus On: Finding Passion
College Interviews and Visits
Recruiting is More Advertising: Looking at Athletics and College for the Average High School Player
Reference Letters: Getting Out of Their Comfort Zone
I have to admit as a kid these things never remotely crossed my mind. It was, as I said earlier, simple. As a teen, it became more real, more concrete but it was still pretty simple. Get good grades. Be involved. Apply. Go to Duke. As a junior and a senior in high school, it became very real and very complicated. There is A LOT to think about. It can be overwhelming. I don’t like to admit it but I was slightly behind the eight ball. Luckily, my previous hard work and some hustling worked it all out. But I was not alone. Truth be told, many kids are. Getting in to college today and knowing what needs to be done when is a big business and a lot more complicated than when many parents went to college.
I believe knowledge is power and sharing it is important. My hope with this series is to help parents and teens navigate what can be a mine field of paper work, confusion and frustration. As my husband and I walk this journey with our teenager, I want to share what we learn. I want to make this process more manageable for those that visit my corner of the web and those they choose to share it with. Hopefully, by the end, we will all have our sanity. The first post in the series will be up this month. I can’t wait to hear what you all think about it and what questions you have.