As teenagers progress through high school, they approach a choice that may have the greatest impact on the trajectory of their lives: what are they going to do when they grow up? While not chosen by everyone, the benefits of higher education make the college experience a potentially outstanding choice.
With good planning, the college admissions process can be easy to navigate. Without good planning, it can feel overwhelming. Many children already know the school they’d like to attend. If researching colleges is part of the process, let the teenager take the lead. Early in the admissions process, look for merit aid, whether for academics or athletics. Visit campuses in person. Starting as a freshman in high school, plan a timeline to manage the collective stress of the process.
Strong academic and/or athletic performance in high school can lead to college scholarships, making continuing education that much more attractive. Some colleges vie for the enrollment of über talented artists and musicians—it’s important to explore all possible avenues that can help with tuition. For low-income families, applying for and being granted financial aid can make all the difference. As we discuss college with our kids, it’s important to convey three main points: 1) college might be one of the best times of our lives, 2) a college education is often accompanied by the burden of debt, and 3) consider a degree in a discipline that makes the investment worthwhile.
Before finalizing the commitment to college, it’s helpful to have two financial plans: one for during school and one for after graduation.
Giving Advice for the Road Ahead
If we are going to give advice, give pearls like these: Take classes that interest you. Don’t be intimidated. You know who you are and what is right and wrong. People, as well as situations, can be challenging; by being true to ourselves, we stay on the right course. As we continue through college, we’ll come across lots of students who will complain endlessly, whether about homework, studying, or having a bad day. Our youth goes by a lot faster than we might realize in the present moment; things that feel earth-shattering to college students are usually just a blip on the radar. Be the person who shares good news, brings positive energy into the lives of others, and makes the most out of the college experience.
Especially in college, it’s cool to be smart. Be on time, take notes, do the readings, and complete assignments. Study. Get good grades. If grad school is in the plans, earning at least a 3.5 GPA will be important. Approach every exam, every paper, as though it is the only one you must do. Aim for an A, knowing that if you get a B, that’s ok, you did your best.
In the long run, participating in class, getting to know the professors, and building relationships can be more valuable than the degree. Earning a bachelor’s degree makes 4-year college graduates eligible for graduate school, where students can study to truly differentiate themselves from their competition in the labor force.
Social Clubs, Social Life, & Partying
College life can be such an enriching time for exploration. One of the coolest things about college is the opportunity to meet new people from all walks of life. Learning about the diversity of other cultures will expand students’ horizons, helping them better understand the world and define themselves in it.
American journalist, Chuck Palahniuk, said, “College is like a fountain of knowledge—and the students are there to drink.” Unless a student chooses to abstain from alcohol entirely, drinking is often part of the college experience. Students who choose to drink should be with someone trustworthy and stay aware of their surroundings. Whatever students do, they should always prioritize their responsibilities—don’t be the school drunk or the drunk girl at the party.
Although our children are at the age that they’re least likely to listen to us, we must help them grasp the importance of properly managing their college years. By getting our teenagers prepared several years ahead of time, the necessary steps and adjustments will be much more streamlined. Families should also consider the financial implications for life during and after college. Mothers can open a UFUND 529 plan when their children are born, contributing just $50 per month can be a game changer for affording college when the time comes. If a four-year degree in Liberal Arts costs $200,000, while only helping a graduating student increase earnings power from $50,000 to $60,000 a year, consider pumping the brakes and rethinking the plan. Students should have fun, be their true authentic selves, and do their best. By making the most of their college experience—students and graduates can be the light they want to see in the world.
“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” —Joshua 1:9 NLT
Shane has been doing college all wrong. With stellar grades and happy parents, she has made zero friends. She needs a change, so Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She’s going to make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure! Shane discovers that with courage and determination—one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic—the possibilities are endless.
The Price You Pay for College gives the clarity needed to make informed choices, helping restore the joy and wonder of the college experience.
Witty and relatable, this book is a great resource for high school graduates and new college students, providing practical advice ranging from classroom enrollment, living on campus, study habits, and more.
Fully updated and expanded every year, Fiske is the most authoritative source of information for college-bound students and their parents. Helpful, honest, and straightforward, the Fiske Guide to Colleges delivers an insider’s look at what it’s really like to be a student at the “best and most interesting” schools in the United States, plus Canada, Great Britain, and Ireland―so you can find the best fits for you.
This book provides an unusually intimate look at how admissions decisions get made and guides prospective students to honestly assess their strengths and match with the schools that will best serve their interests.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Mothers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.